By David Shaw, ERJ staff
Freudenberg, Germany - Ford is asking tyre makers to work more closely with it, to deliver improvements in fuel economy, safety and environmental impact. However, Ford will insist its tyre suppliers can deliver consistent manufacturing processes around the world; a significant switch from physical testing to computer modelling and further significant improvements in fuel economy.
Speaking at a ceremony to open a new technical centre at Harburg Freudenberger, Caspar Dirk Hohage, Engineering director for Ford of Europe, told delegates, including global tyre makers, that Ford wants to work with qualified tyre makers at a much earlier stage in vehicle development.
Much of his presentation focussed on fuel economy, and Hohage said Ford aims to be a leader in fuel economy on its global vehicle fleet. This is a customer benefit and is strongly in line with governmental objectives. To achieve this, Ford wants to drive fuel economy in tyres through the use of new materials such as functionalised elastomers.
As part of Ford's commitment to the EU's Vision Zero programme, the company wants to improve the ability of its vehicles to stop rapidly in urban situations and to avoid losing grip on highways. The aim is to reduce the death toll on the world's roads.
In terms of fuel economy, Hohage said every percentage point improvement will count. In the past, the rest of the vehicle system had not been optimised for fuel economy, so a few percentage points of improvement in a tyre was less significant. However, now that the main drive train is being optimised for fuel economy, every advantage Ford can get through tyre performance will be seen as a significant advance.
Hohage noted that rolling resistance coefficients have fallen to 7 or 8 units compared with a figure of 12 or more a decade ago. He asked if there is a limit to this decline, suggesting that 5 might be a target. Or whether tyre makers can push for even better performance in this area.
He set a goal, requesting that rolling resistance should improve by a further 20 percent, without compromising the wear and grip performance of a current well-balanced tyre.
Hohage said the aim is to reduce the development time for these tyres, and Ford will work intensively with materials suppliers as well as tyre makers to drive these goals forward. He said Ford aims to be a leader in fuel economy.
More on this story in the next issue of ERJ