New Michelin Is Fit

While all manner of biological materials are being used or tested for use as alternatives to petroleum for fuels—everything from switchgrass to wood chips, to say nothing of corn, which ostensibly has caused the price of popcorn at movie theaters to skyrocket—there are a variety of other applications for bio-based oils in the auto industry.

While all manner of biological materials are being used or tested for use as alternatives to petroleum for fuels—everything from switchgrass to wood chips, to say nothing of corn, which ostensibly has caused the price of popcorn at movie theaters to skyrocket—there are a variety of other applications for bio-based oils in the auto industry.

Like tires.

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“Sunflower oil is particularly useful in high-performance all-season tires because it allows the tire to maintain winter performance that might otherwise be sacrificed to gain handling and wet grip,” says Dominique Josson, product category manager, Michelin North America.

So Michelin is using “oil from specific types of sunflowers”—so don’t try this at home—to produce what it calls its “Helio Compound.” The compound is being used in its Primacy MXM4 tire, which is original equipment on seven cars, including the Mercedes E Class, Infiniti M, and Buick Lacrosse.

One advantage of the sunflower oil is that it provides a shorter stopping distance, up to 19 ft. shorter in wet conditions, according to Michelin.

No word on whether the sunflower oil, which is often recommended in “light” cooking recipes, cuts the overall mass of the tire, however. And while the Michelin Man is somewhat more svelte today than he was in the past, he could undoubtedly use some of those recipes.

 

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