AKRON—The tire industry needs to continue to adapt as autonomous and electric vehicles become more popular, said Jim Popio, vice president of operations in North America for Smithers Rapra.
Popio focused on developments driven in the automotive industry by ACES, or autonomous, connected, electric and shared vehicles in his presentation, "3 Key Automotive Trends and What it Means for Tires," at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in Akron Sept. 11-13.
New vehicle types, as a key trend, are introducing new challenges for tire manufacturers, including dealing with additional weight in particular, he said.
"A Tesla is 700 pounds heavier than a Honda Accord," he said. "These tires, they weigh a lot. That means that tires are going to have to carry more load."
Electric vehicles also are quicker off the line, with the additional torque "ripping some rubber off of those tires," he said. Tires for electric vehicles will need to be even more efficient, providing longer range and less rolling resistance. Electric vehicles also mean additional cabin noise, which tires will need to play a part in solving.
"How does all of this affect vehicle handling?" Popio said. "I'm guessing if there's more weight in the back … what's it mean for cargo loads and entire performance?"
With additional load capacity and other challenges, tire manufacturers will have to look at things like the car's contact patch. An EV might need a larger one, Popio said. Going to thin, narrow tires might mean they spin more, which would run counter to the high efficiency goals of the EV.
Autonomous vehicles present additional questions, as they have to run on public roads and avoid collisions while following traffic rules, he said. According to market research, 70 million Level 3 (vehicles requiring a human driver but with some safety functions shifted to the car) vehicles will be on the road by 2030. By the same time frame, about 30 million Level 4 vehicles will be in use, which are fully autonomous in most driving scenarios. About 5 million Level 5, or fully autonomous vehicles, are expected. There are no current federal regulations governing autonomous vehicles.