Michelin tests: verifying innovation
Improved safety, more longevity, more comfort, greater pleasure, better energy efficiency... When we create a new tire at Michelin, we want it to be better than its predecessors. It must also meet the expectations of car manufacturers and users with no weaknesses, whatever the conditions, even the most extreme. Over time, we have developed a genuine “test culture” to achieve this. It is a major asset behind our innovation prowess.
Our tires must provide the best level of performance and safety for millions of people every day, all over the world.” We can only provide this guarantee by testing them beyond their limits.
Every year, we perform millions of tests and measurements on materials which make up the tire and on the finished product. These tests occur throughout the tire design process and come under four major families:
- Tests in laboratory
- Tests on machines
- Tests on vehicles
- Customer tests
A tire is made of over 200 materials which determine its qualities and specific characteristics. To guarantee the quality of the tire we need to guarantee the quality of each of its materials.
Thanks to the expertise of our teams, in our laboratories we can get right to the heart of the matter, down to a nanometric scale with ultra-powerful microscopes, and discover the properties which feed our innovations. Sampling, deformations, elongations... These are examples of tests the materials go through. Our aim is to make sure that every element in the future tire will be a strong link.
When a new tire model breaks out of the mold, we need to make sure that it meets the expectations of the engineer who designed it, to the letter. We measure it from every angle, using a series of so-called “static” tests.
Then it is time to check its qualities under real conditions. But to pursue performance as far as possible, we would need to run tests which are impossible to achieve in reality, like driving thousands of kilometers without stopping or traveling at very high speeds. These tests which cannot be achieved in practice are performed by machines. With dynamic testing, we can find out the cornering of a tire, its endurance, how it heats up under severe conditions (over 500 kph), on dry or wet roads...
What makes our tests so specific are the resources invested. Whether it is providing our laboratories with cutting-edge equipment, developing new test machines or running test tracks with all imaginable road conditions, we make the necessary investments to ensure our tests are the most efficient.
Our tires must of course face the ultimate test before being fitted to our customers’ vehicles: the road. At this stage, our test drivers are responsible for pushing the tires to their very limits and subjecting them to (let’s hope) conditions and situations they would never have to cope with in real life. At our different test centers, from the meltingly hot asphalt of Almeria in Spain to the icy environment of Ivalo in Finland, our drivers test new tires in every weather and on every terrain.
These tests provide objective measurements: what is the performance level compared to an existing tire? What fuel consumption? What braking distance? What is the road grip like? But the drivers’ subjective impressions are just as important in the tire’s “fine-tuning”. Confidence, driving precision, screeching (or not) are just as important as the stopwatch when it comes to confirming the tire’s objective qualities.
Our tires are not designed to be the celebrated achievements of unique laboratory models, used by machines or super-specialized drivers. They are made to facilitate and improve your everyday driving.
We can imagine and produce any tire possible. But first and foremost, we have to satisfy driver requirements. Our customer trials bring us face to face with our users every day. By collecting real data about tire behavior over time (wear, etc.), we can be certain that we are providing a tire adapted to expectations.
Customer tests are extremely important to us as it is the customers who use our tires, not for exceptional purposes, for their everyday. Thanks to them, we can observe the tire’s life over time and capture the data about use, wear and more.
In many countries, our tires travel nearly 500 million kilometers to confirm their suitability to requirements of all who use them.
The legend of Mille Pattes
What is orange, over 7 meters long, weighs more than 9 tons and can test a truck tire at 180kph? The Michelin Mille Pattes of course! Designed in 1972 on the chassis of a DS estate and powered by two Chevrolet 250hp engines, the most famous of our test vehicles represents the missing link between mechanical and track testing. Its little brother, the DS ID19 estate, white this time, was dedicated to touring and van tire tests.