Research Team Helps Ford and Future
Customers Get a Better Grip on Tire Technology
- Ford, through its dedicated Research and Innovation team, is
taking a leadership role in helping to develop new materials for
- Ford teams are working with leading tire suppliers and
manufacturers to bring these solutions to consumers faster
DEARBORN, Mich., July 6, 2011 –
Ford Motor Company has established a unique cross-functional team
whose mission is to develop innovative new tires that improve
safety, boost fuel economy and enhance vehicle handling.
Located at Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn,
the dedicated tire team works closely with Ford's Chassis
Engineering and Vehicle Engineering functions, as well as leading
tire companies, to test new compounds, new tread designs and other
Most automakers don't influence significantly the development
of the tires they use. But tires -- the only component that touches
the road while you drive -- are one of the most important
components of any vehicle.
Because tire tread is the main contributor to rolling
resistance, which is simply the measure of force needed to roll the
wheel forward, the team has focused its immediate attention on this
part of the tire.
The three key attributes to any road tire tread are traction
or grip, wear and rolling resistance. The challenge to building a
better tire is that often improving one attribute may compromise
another. A tire with better grip, for example, may have a higher
rolling resistance and therefore, energy consumption.
“Traditionally, the challenge of improving tire treads
is to expand all facets of the ‘magic triangle’ –
grip, wear and rolling resistance. We want to improve all
attributes without compromising others,” said Dan Haakenson,
technical expert, Vehicle Dynamics. “Our goal is to
anticipate, innovate and incorporate technologies to make Ford a
leader in fuel economy and to help deliver superior
low-rolling-resistance tires to customers faster than anyone
Driving toward a no-compromise solution
A no-compromise attitude to fuel efficiency has been a key
benefit for Ford customers. The 2011 Ford Mustang coupe, for
example, is the first car to achieve the combination of 305
horsepower and 31 mpg highway. The all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta and
2012 Ford Focus usher in a new era of what a small car can achieve
in terms of in-vehicle technology and a fun-to-drive experience as
well as fuel economy.
Producing no-compromise vehicles has its roots in an
exhaustive, focused examination of each component – like
tires – to optimize design, systems and materials.
“While Ford doesn’t manufacture tires, we do want
to become smart buyers for our customers,” said David
Rohweder, global chief engineer for Tire and Wheel
“Fuel economy is on the minds of consumers globally more
than ever and is a critical factor for most when purchasing new
vehicles,” said Rohweder. “Ford is leading the drive
for innovation for fuel economy, and one mechanism to do that is
through the research program on advanced tire
“We are developing our own in-house expertise on tire
materials and compounds,” said Dr. Cynthia Flanigan,
technical leader of elastomers research. (An elastomer is something
that can be stretched or deformed, then returns to close to its
original shape – like a rubber band.) “And through our
research we want to be the catalyst, working with chemical and
rubber suppliers as well as tire manufacturers, to pull new
technologies and solutions through the industry.”
Flanigan and her team are focused on the materials aspect of
tire construction. While the actual recipes of these complex
systems are often proprietary, the Ford research team seeks new
technical advances for tires in the future.
Drive for research began two years ago
The mandate to become more engaged with tire suppliers and
manufacturers and to better understand the benefits of
low-rolling-resistance tires has been under way since after the
last spike in fuel prices in the summer of 2008.
“Based on the feedback we received from chemical
suppliers and tire companies, Ford is now at the forefront of
understanding tire technologies on a deeper level and pushing hard
for new technologies,” Flanigan said.
Flanigan’s group, which is part of Research and
Innovation, was formed in October 2009 and works with Ford's
Vehicle Engineering and Chassis Engineering teams to ensure
potential tire material solutions can be implemented in Ford
vehicles and exceed customer expectations.
“Each of our tires needs to satisfy customer demand for
excellent grip in any condition dry or wet, for low noise levels,
tires that handle well and have good rolling resistance,”
Current research is focused on the tread cap – literally
where the rubber meets the road.
“By being more involved upstream, we think we can be a
driver for innovation,” said Flanigan.
Looking beyond tire industry for solutions
Ford is expanding its expertise on other components and is
applying this knowledge to the tire research project.
“Ford is doing research in a wide breadth of materials
areas,” Flanigan said. “Current research spans from the
molecular level to sustainable raw materials. There’s a whole
portfolio of research Ford does that we can bring to the
For example, Ford has developed technologies for soy-based
seats, and this team is applying these concepts to tires and other
rubber products. The research team has already developed
patent-pending technologies for EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene
Monomer – used in weather stripping) rubber using
“Rubber is used throughout cars – weather strips,
gaskets, interior trim, underbody shields, floor mats – so
our research could benefit those as well,” Flanigan
Ford research into other rubber parts could provide new
solutions for tires. Additionally, the Ford team is researching
beyond the automotive field for new ideas, and continues to lead
the way for innovative material solutions.
“We’re casting a wide net as we seek innovative
and beneficial solutions for our customers,” Flanigan
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry
leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes
automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and
about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands
include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services
through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding
Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.