FREUDENBERG, Germany (Feb. 21, 2012) — Ford Motor Co. is asking tire makers to work more closely with it, to deliver improvements in fuel economy, safety and environmental impact.
However, Ford will insist its tire suppliers can deliver consistent manufacturing processes around the world; a significant switch from physical testing to computer modeling; and further significant improvements in fuel economy.
Speaking at a ceremony to open a technical center at Harburg Freudenberger Maschinenbau G.m.b.H. in Freudenberg, Caspar Dirk Hohage, engineering director for Ford of Europe, told delegates, including global tire makers, that Ford wants to work with qualified tire makers at a much earlier stage in vehicle development.
Much of his presentation focused on fuel economy, and Mr. 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 tires through the use of new materials such as functionalized elastomers.
As part of Ford's commitment to the EU's Vision Zero program, 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, Mr. Hohage said every percentage point improvement will count. In the past, the rest of the vehicle system had not been optimized for fuel economy, so a few percentage points of improvement in a tire was less significant. However, now that the main drive train is being optimized for fuel economy, every advantage Ford can get through tire performance will be seen as a significant advance.
Mr. 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 tire 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 tire.
Mr. Hohage said the aim is to reduce the development time for these tires, and Ford will work intensively with materials suppliers as well as tire makers to drive these goals forward. He added that Ford aims to be a leader in fuel economy.
This report appeared on the website of European Rubber Journal, a U.K.-based sister publication of Tire Business.