June 21 Vol. 2, No. 13
Hate to say it, but I’ve just come back from a few days in Paris. As in France. Croissants, extremely good coffee, and all that. More particularly, I was part of Michelin’s 6th Challenge Bibendum, 2006 version.
It’s an extraordinary event, the brainchild and pet project of the late Edouard Michelin who died three weeks ago in a tragic boating accident. With his role as head of the French tire-maker and host of the Challenge taken by
Michel Rollier, the company’s huge effort to promote the ideals of ‘sustainable mobility’ went on without a hitch.
There’s nothing else like it – a three-day conference on the one hand, but also a monster display of future truck, car, and bus technologies representing some 300 manufacturers from literally all over the world.
The central idea is to create a massive exchange of information and opinion, all aimed at furthering the goal of hauling people and cargo with minimal impact on our increasingly fragile global environment. Michelin invited just shy of 500 international journalists to take part, and collectively we jumped head-first into the world of fuel cells and hybrid engines and biofuels and you name the technology for a few very intense days. Most of the vehicles on display – some of them very weird indeed – were available for us to drive at a huge test track an hour out of Paris.
Unlike previous Challenge Bibendum events I’ve attended, there was relatively little truck content this time out, and I’d seen it before anyway. But a very interesting meeting with Pete Selleck, the American who is now
President of Michelin’s worldwide Truck Tire Business, revealed an exciting new development that we’ll see in North America “soon”. He was no more specific than that.
It’s a radical new technology that, in essence, regenerates the tire’s original tread and thus its traction qualities as the tire wears. Instead of losing tread and tractive capabilities, hidden layers of fresh rubber appear as the
original tread wears down, and the tire’s useful life is extended anywhere from 10 to 50%, Selleck said. We’ll first see it in the retreading process, but it will be used in about 20% of all Michelin truck tires by 2010.
This represents a very heavy investment, Selleck added, and it will demand new retreading and repair techniques.
He also said that Michelin’s eTire technology – with embedded chips that record and transmit pressure and temperature data – is “moving forward slowly but surely.” We’ll see a new generation of eTire later this year,
Still with tires, in this version of Product Watch we’ve got a new tread from Bandag specifically developed for spread-axle trailers, along with a new series of aluminum wheels from Hayes Lemmerz. International’s Workhorse
subsidiary offers a new 16,000-lb chassis for walk-in applications, and Utility says it’s raising the bar with a new thin-wall dry van. Finally, a line of serious pressure washers from Karcher rounds out the selection.
Next time out I’ll have news for you from Kalamazoo, where Eaton is holding a press conference this week to introduce… well, I’ll keep that to myself until the next Product Watch e-newsletter on July 5. See you then.
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