Tire manufacturer Michelin this week held its almost annual international forum on sustainable mobility in Rio de Janeiro. The event, called the Challenge Bibendum, offered a busy schedule of round-table discussions, debates and demonstrations�but ultimately the tire company is interested in what happens when the rubber hits the road.
Calculating the costs and the payback for a more expensive tire is also tricky.
The sustainability question is a major issue for Michelin and other tire makers. The number of cars in the world is expected to grow from 900 million today to 1.5 billion or more by 2030, according to Michelin research and development chief Terry Gettys. As a result the company has set the goal of reducing the mass of tires by 50 percent by that time. In this way, the carbon footprint of tires will not grow along with the number of vehicles on global roads. But how do you reduce the mass without sacrificing safety, durability or ride quality?
One way is to change the overall shape of tires by making them exceptionally tall and narrow, or fat and short. In Rio, Michelin showed prototypes of two such odd-looking tires, which may be off into the future�if consumers would ever accept such a novel approach.