Mr. Matteo Schiavo is managing director of Pirelli Hungary. If the development ideas he talks about in this interview come true, we will soon be looking at tyres in a very different way.
What are the new tyre trends and how does the automotive transformation impact in the tyre industry?There are several factors that will impact the tyre industry over the next few years: regulatory changes such as stricter tyre labeling (Tyre rolling resistance plays a key role in reducing fuel and energy consumption and thus CO2 emissions), implementation of winter tyre regulations (Hungary is still one of the few unregulated markets), increased safety standards. But most importantly, the key factor shaping the entire tire and automotive industry is the strong focus on the environment and sustainability driven by climate change. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a key element of the transition toward a circular economy. In addition, new electric vehicles require dedicated tyres to respond to their specific features. As well, autonomous driving systems require specific technologies to monitor road conditions and the tyre is the vehicle’s only point of contact with the ground. These elements are driving intense interaction between car manufacturers and tyre producers with technological solutions.
What are the new R&D trends and latest tyre technologies?
We are focusing on reducing rolling resistance and tyre wear in order to reduce the impact of the tyre on the environment. In our new tyres, we will use more renewable and recycled materials like silica obtained from rice husk, a waste product from the food industry; lignin, a wasted product of papermaking derived from wood pulp, which is replacing carbon black, a major fossil-based component of the tyre compound material, and polyester from recycled bottles is being used in place of rayon for cords. With reference to our industrial process development, we are increasing the digitalization of processes, using predictive modelling and virtual simulators that recreate real-world conditions. The use of simulation and virtualisation tools rather than the old-school trial-and-error approach has made it possible to try out new ideas without having to make prototype tyres. The approach is less wasteful, and once physical prototypes are made; different types of one-off tread patterns can be tested quickly by cutting them with lasers rather than having to make expensive moulds.
How does Pirelli support the automotive transformation?
For many decades several universities, research centres and Pirelli have been successfully collaborating with the aim of developing cutting-edge technologies in the field of materials, supporting research and experimentation activities for patenting purposes, as well as promoting training and professional updating initiatives for young researchers. On top of this, strong and long-standing partnerships with Premium and Prestige OEMs are a boost to the continuous improvement of performance and solutions for the latest car technologies. Our historical presence in the Top motorsport competitions worldwide has given Pirelli a leading position in cutting-edge technologies for commercial vehicle tyres. Our presence in Formula 1, World Rally Championship, World Superbikes Championship and more than other 350 competitions globally support the development of innovative processes and products.
Could you tell me please an example?
The Pirelli Cyber Tyre system is capable of giving cars a sense of touch by allowing them to identify or predict potentially hazardous situations such as loss of grip and aquaplaning, which means that the car’s electronics can promptly intervene. Pirelli Cyber Tyre system has sensorized tyres that allow the car to identify the type of tyre and its condition at all times. Using its ID, the car can act on its suspension, brakes or stability control and ADAS systems to adapt to the different characteristics needed. We launched the first tyre in the world that „talks to your car” last year on McLaren’s 671bhp Artura hybrid supercar. These systems are constantly evolving, in the same way that autonomous driving systems are also becoming more advanced. The tasks entrusted to the driver today – assessing the level of grip provided by the road surface and weather conditions – will be increasingly handed over to the tyres, meaning that the car will automatically slow down when conditions become slippery, with driver aids activated to increase safety. As connectivity between vehicles comes online, a car will be able to advise other driverless cars about an imminent potential hazard. All this adds to a genuine sense of touch delivered by the only part of the car in contact with the road: its tyres. Talking about electric vehicles, Pirelli has recently developed its ELECT technology characterized by cutting-edge technology that provides exceptional energy efficiency and optimum grip on various types of road surfaces. The design of these tyres considers the specific requirements of electric cars, providing low rolling resistance which improves battery range, low external noise for the interior comfort of the driver and maximum grip for high torque. One of our latest homologation achievements has been to fit the powerful BMW i4 M50 with two engines driving all four wheels, giving the car a total power output of 544CV (400kW) with acceleration from 0-100kph in 3.9 seconds. The structure of the Pirelli tyre was reinforced to support the car and deliver maximum performance even during extreme sports driving. The special high-grip compound has also been designed to give maximum grip to guarantee precise and efficient handling.
Is sustainability a priority for Pirelli?
Pirelli Eco-Safety Design approach guides us and couples with our DNA linked to performance (i.e., safety), with the sustainability trend in the automotive world. This is not only linked to the products’ features but also to the industrial process. Pirelli aims to achieve ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2030, for both electric and thermal energy, supported by its energy supply target of 100% renewable source electricity at the global level by 2025. In addition, there is a constant commitment to Research & Development of innovative on renewable materials and the reduction of emissions from the supply chain. The Innovation not only comes on the product performance, but it is also achieved in a sustainable way. Decarbonization and the circular economy are integral parts of Pirelli’s strategy. Our commitment to environmental sustainability, where the company has formalized its Net Zero Commitment within 1.5°C with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has brought the company in 2023 to achieve the highest level of recognition in the context of the Sustainability: Pirelli is in the top 1% in S&P global sustainability yearbook 2003.