INTERVIEW WITH STÉPHAN VIELLEVIGNE,
HEAD OF THE WINTER TOURING TIRE PLATFORM
What is a winter tire?
A winter tire is a tire where the tread, tread characteristics and internal structure are designed to provide better performances than a summer tire for acceleration, braking and trajectory in winter temperatures and winter road conditions. Special marking is used on the sidewall of the tire called 3PMSF (3 Peaks Mountain SnowFlake), a qualification represented by a snowflake surrounded by three snowy peaks. It proves that the tire has been tested in difficult snowy conditions.
How do you make this kind of tire?
These many requirements mean the tread for winter tires is more complex than summer tires. The art in the design is to find the best balance possible between the tread and the elasticity of the rubbers at low temperatures. A winter tire tread can contain up to 3,000 strips.
What difficulties do you encounter?
As well as the sheer number, the geometry of the strips becomes increasingly complex and 3D metal printing technology is required for their manufacture. To meet all these requirements, we need to test and approve these tires in very varied weather conditions: snow, ice, wet and dry roads.
Which means planning a lot of tests in our different testing centers in France and in Finland for snow and ice.
What advances will this type of tire make in the future?
Beyond new tire performance, which will continue to improve, a winter tire must also carry out its function when worn. This is a key direction in our tire development.
To finish, can you give us any advice?
It’s more of a reflection really. In winter weather, on snow and ice but also on wet roads when temperatures are below 45°F, winter tires offer far better grip and safety than summer tires. That should be taken into account, depending on how you use your vehicle...
Which tires for which winter?
If you only occasionally drive on snow, black ice, etc. then the MICHELIN CrossClimate tire range is perfect for you. If, however, you regularly have to deal with harsher conditions then MICHELIN Alpin tires will take you where you want, guaranteeing the best grip even on difficult roads. Note that for utility vehicles, MICHELIN Agilis tires are also available from the Alpin range, for better traction in this type of weather.
What about for motorbikes?
Motorbikes are even more sensitive to the weather. For them, MICHELIN developed its CITY GRIP WINTER range available in 11 versions. With their multiple strip tread which “breaks” the film of water on the road surface, the tire’s performance on fresh and melting snow is improved. These tires provide excellent grip on dry and damp surfaces as well as effective braking to ensure comfort and safety.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
In Europe, the regulations about the use of winter tires varies country to country.
In France, winter tires are not mandatory but an obligation to use specific equipment (winter tires or chains) can be decreed at any time in some areas, depending on driving conditions. In particular for driving in some ski resorts!