Michelin's Agilis tire treads lightly

  • 25-Apr-2008 04:10 EDT
Agilis_109.JPG
The latest Michelin Agilis tire features a new tread block design and reinforced construction, offering reduced fuel consumption and shorter braking distances.

Michelin has launched the latest version of the Agilis light commercial vehicle (LCV) tire, designed for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight between 2800 kg (6173 lb) and 3500 kg (7716 lb). Although it bears the same name as its predecessor, launched some 10 years ago, the latest Agilis features a completely different construction.

The new design was driven by a number of factors, including the development of increasingly powerful LCVs. A significant minority of European models is now available with power outputs exceeding 150 bhp (112 kW), and many are equipped with antilock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability program (ESP) systems. At the same time, the European LCV market is growing at a faster rate than that for passenger cars, and more LCVs are involved in road accidents than before.

Compared with its predecessor, the new Agilis delivers lower fuel consumption with a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and extended life, according to Michelin. Fuel-consumption reductions equating to 0.2 L/100 km were achieved in independent certified testing prior to launch.

After some 85,000 km (52,800 mi) of use, the fuel-consumption reduction will equate approximately to the cost of one Agilis tire, claims Michelin. The calculation is based on a 2007 study by GMV Conseil in France, which estimates that the average annual distance covered by a LCV in France, Germany, and the U.K. is 30,000 km (18,640 mi).

The fuel-consumption reduction corresponds to a CO2 emissions reduction of approximately 4.0 g/km. Although this is a relatively small reduction, Michelin points to the requirements of the European Union Carbon Dioxide Emissions Directive due in 2012. LCVs with a mass up to 3500 kg must record a reduction in CO2 emissions from an average of 203 g/km set in 2003 to 175 g/km. The reduction represents around 14% of the required decrease.

Michelin claims an increase in tire life of around 20% compared with the earlier Agilis. Based on the GMV Conseil study, this represents an additional six months use. Brake testing using tires that have covered 15,000 km (9320 mi) show that a LCV equipped with the new Agilis would stop in a shorter distance than an equivalent LCV equipped with the earlier Agilis tire.

Improved performance is attributed to the rubber compound used in the tread, which Michelin calls the durable security compound. At the same time, the revised construction of the tire owes more to technology from truck tires. Termed durable contact patch technology, it is said to minimize the distortion of the tire shoulders and tread blocks, providing a square “footprint” for the tire, compared with the more rounded shape of its predecessor. Since the tire distorts less in operation, less energy is converted into heat, resulting in greater energy efficiency.

The tire maker also claims greater abrasion resistance. LCV tires are particularly prone to sidewall damage from repeated curbing in urban environments. The sidewalls include eight anti-scrape shields, while the casing itself has been reinforced compared with its predecessor.

At the press launch, AEI was shown a number of tests demonstrating the improvements of the new Agilis tire over the previous product. Testing included scuffing—driving against a curbstone for 1.2 km (0.7 mi), simulating approximately two years of wear—enough to remove the brand name from the sidewall.

The reduced rolling resistance of the new tire was demonstrated using two identical Fiat Ducato cargo vans, carrying loads of 1000 kg (2205 lb) each. One was fitted with the new Agilis tire, the other with its predecessor. The test involved allowing the Agilis-equipped vehicle to roll from a predetermined position down a gradient so that it was traveling at 20 km/h (12 mph) at the foot of the incline. The vehicle then continued rolling until it came to rest. The test was then repeated with the second vehicle, and the one equipped with the new Agilis tires traveled several vehicle lengths further before coming to rest.

The new tire is already on sale in Europe in 13 sizes for 15- and 16-in rims. By 2009, Michelin plans to add seven more sizes. The Agilis has already received certification from Iveco for the Daily LCV and from Renault for the Master. Citroën, Mercedes-Benz, and Peugeot are in the process of completing certification.

Michelin has also launched a version of the tire for motor homes, distinguished from the LCV version by 30% more sipes and a 20% higher void ratio.

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