AKRON—Changes in the tire industry will be driven by future trends in the larger automotive industry like electric and autonomous vehicles.
The Tire Society's panel covered some of those changes in "Tire Industry Re-alignment: Necessities to Mobility Market Trends," held Sept. 11 at the 38th Annual Tire Society Business Meeting and Conference on Tire Science and Technology at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.
The panel was moderated by Ric Mousseau, lead tire modeling engineer for General Motors. It included Robert Asper, director of core engineering for Bridgestone Americas Inc.; Bruce Lambillotte, vice president of technical consulting, Smithers; and Greg Smith, senior engineer-virtual submissions, for Goodyear.
The panel started by discussing the impact of EVs on the market. Lambillotte talked about a Smithers market study that predicted that new EV registrations would grow substantially over the next nine years, with a cumulative adjusted growth rate of 26 percent per year.
"We have to keep in mind that that's starting from a very small base, No. 1," Lambillotte said. "No. 2, a tremendous percentage of that growth is in China."
Two thirds of the EV market's growth is predicted to be in China, with less both in Europe and the U.S., and the rest of the world after them, Lambillotte said. From a technical standpoint, one of the top requirements for EVs is range, which from a tire standpoint translates to rolling resistance. A United Kingdom-based survey asked how much range an EV really needed to be able to travel on a single charge, and more than a quarter of the respondents felt between about 250-375 miles. Another 26 percent of people said they wanted more than 375 on a single charge.
Noise reduction and abatement makes up the second rated requirement for consumers. For EVs and AVs, a large fraction of the noise comes from tire contact with the road, Lambillotte said. While drivers aren't looking for a completely silent vehicle, they don't want the noise to come from the tire/road interface. Wet and dry traction make up the third rated consumer requirement, with load carrying in fourth and wear resistance in fifth.
Asper took a counterpoint to the question of range, as many consumers won't actually need such a large range on a single charge for EVs.
"I think most people, if you get them to 50 miles, that's all you need in a day, in something that's reasonable to charge overnight," he said.
Reducing the overall range could allow a similar reduction in vehicle mass and load-carrying capacity. While EVs have been looked at as a one-to-one replacement for internal combustion engines, the automotive industry should be educating consumers about the differences, he said. The answer for some consumers could be owning two vehicles: one EV for local driving and an internal combustion engine vehicle for long-distance travel. They also could rent an ICE vehicle for vacation or a trip to another city.
"I think we're missing some market for making a much lower-cost and a much lighter weight, and then eliminate some of the problems that we're having by not changing the configuration of the vehicle," Asper said.
Smith said "range anxiety" was a factor for EVs reach with consumers, even though many fall in the range of 50 miles per charge and could benefit from other EV perks.
"It's this issue of people seeing it as a one-to-one replacement, like it must do everything that an ICE car can do in order to be useful," Smith said. "I think electric cars already have an awful lot, so they don't have to do absolutely everything. One advantage is that you never have to go to a petrol station again. You just charge and you go out, which is way cheaper. So you're already saving a lot of money and gaining a lot of convenience just simply by the mechanism of charging. It doesn't necessarily need to be a one-to-one replacement."
Hybrid vehicles also could help open the market, using a battery pack and a small ICE as a range extender, similar to the BMW i3. The ICE can be used to generate electricity once the battery runs out, which is a more efficient design with a single speed and load, Smith said. Regardless whether current EVs cover the range of the average driver, public perception makes "range anxiety" a real obstacle for the automotive market.
"It isn't as necessary as people think, but the fact the customer thinks it is, is a problem nonetheless," Smith said. "Whether we think it doesn't actually matter, or there's an engineering reason it matters. It doesn't actually factor in. The fact that the customer thinks that that's a problem means it's a problem."
"A customer can be wrong," replied Asper.