Sustainable mobility drives all of our Research
The mobility of goods and services is critical to our development. But it is precisely because it’s meant to improve human lives that we have to limit its social and environmental impact. Michelin Research is working to overcome this challenge each and every day.
Reducing pollutant emissions; improving driver safety; making traffic in city centers more fluid; helping transport transition towards renewable energy; inventing inter-modality in urban areas; rethinking freight transport; testing various solutions in the sharing economy; making mobility more affordable; ensuring long-lasting tire performances, kilometer after kilometer... These are some of the topics that Michelin Research is currently focusing on!
We'll only find solutions to these global problems if we pool our experience and skills. This is why we don't work alone, and are collaborating with research programs in the transport field as part of a very large ecosystem. For example, we have signed three partnership agreements to create new bio-sourced elastomer networks: the first is with Amyris, a specialist in fuels and chemical products made from renewable raw materials that is working to develop and market a renewable isoprene. The second partnership, with Axens and IFPEN, seeks to produce butadiene from biomass. In order to have access to the alcohol necessary for this project, Michelin is also working with Terreos, a specialist in the industrial transformation of agricultural raw materials. Lastly, we have approached the CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) to develop two innovative used tire recovery channels, with SDTech and Protéus.
We can be good on our own, but there is strength in numbers
This is why we are also participating in a number of international organizations, such as the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development). And above all, our strong commitment to uniting our forces led us to create the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, a benchmark in sustainable mobility.
This event has been held for a dozen years, bringing together thousands of politicians, captains of industry, and scientists, and has now become a "think & action tank" focused on improving our daily lives through more sustainable mobility. For its true purpose is improving all of our lives. But when we talk about manufacturers’ responsibility in general, and Michelin’s specifically, what are we referring to?
Pollution (including noise pollution), lack of safety, and urban congestion all seriously degrade the quality of life of billions of people throughout the world. An additional problem is accessibility (network and costs), since lack of access to transport is the largest source of unequal opportunities in education and employment.
In terms of the environment, 95% of a tire's impact is related to its use: road transport alone represents 18% of CO2 emissions from human activity. The tire itself is responsible for 4% of this 18%, or less than 1% of the total. This 1% is also directly connected to fuel: that which is consumed to overcome what we call rolling resistance. In simple terms, let's say that it's the energy the tire dissipates when changing shape to perform its function (grip, comfort, road holding, etc.). For a car this can represent one liter of fuel out of five (20%). For trucks, it's one liter out of three! This is what interests consumers when they fill up their tanks, and car manufacturers that want to decrease the emissions of their ICE vehicles or increase the range of their electric models.
Michelin has always been interested in fuel efficiency. The Radial tire was a first step. We continued our research efforts, and in 1992, the "Green" tire (using silica), was born: the Michelin Energy range. Since then, generation after generation, we have kept improving energy performance along with all the other tire performances; it's our trademark.
On this topic, Jean-Dominique Senard announced the Group's objectives: reduce CO2 emissions related to the use of our tires by 20% (in 2030 as compared to 2010). This means reducing rolling resistance. For all of our ranges, this represents an average efficiency improvement of 1% per year - meaning a lot of sleepless night for our researchers!
Since the beginning, innovation has been the backbone of the Company
The fact that Michelin Research has been a driving force in our industry for more than 125 years, and is recognized among our peers as always being one step ahead in the most demanding segments, is no accident.
More than 300 occupations contribute to the design and production of a tire. Tribologists (friction specialists), metallurgists, analytical chemists, fluid mechanics, materials specialists (150 professions just in this branch!)... All of these specialists, women and men of all nationalities, collaborate throughout the world to come up with the innovative solutions that have made Michelin a very active leader in the field of sustainable mobility.
But innovation is not simply a technical achievement. Michelin is also a pioneer in the economy of functionality, which involves selling use of a good, rather than the good itself. For example, we don't sell tires to airlines anymore: we sell them landings. But take-offs are free!
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Producing better: a complementary commitment
Limiting the environmental impact of our plants is also very important to us. As proof, the members of the CEG have indexed part of their earnings to this impact!
Production represents just 5 to 6% of a tire's environmental impact. That's not much, but progress is possible even within this 5%, and above all, it depends entirely on our efforts! We have therefore set three objectives at the global level: make tires with even fewer raw materials; reduce the CO2 emissions of our logistics; and lastly, lower our MEF (Michelin Environmental Footprint), a composite indicator that measures resource consumption (water, energy, and waste generation), emissions released into the air (VOCs and CO2), and waste sent to landfills. It goes without saying that compliance with ISO 14001 (an environmental standard) is non-negotiable.