Innovation improves safety and eco-friendliness
The basic principle of our product development has remained the same for more than 80 years: we design tyres for challenging conditions where drivers demand safety, durability and comfort at all times. The development process of a new tyre takes 2 to 4 years.
Consumers’ tyre choice should be based on the tyre’s suitability for their use scenario and driving style. For example, a contractor that operates heavy machinery requires a different type of tyre than someone who drives a passenger car. In line with our global product policy, we offer tailored products and precision innovations for various circumstances and markets.
Nokian Tyres’ product development creates and tests new innovations by means of computer modelling and laboratory testing, among others. In 2016, we invested in the future of product development through our laboratories. Our development efforts are supported by our investments in FEM modelling (Finite Element Method) in 2016, which enables us to investigate and develop various structural and material alternatives with computer simulations.
- In 2016, Nordic winter tyres with high ice grip comprised 73% of our entire winter tyre range.
- The proportion of tyres that reduce fuel consumption through ultra-low rolling resistance was 87%.
- A total of 99.5% of our summer tyre products were in the very high wet grip category.
- Our premium tyres with low rolling resistance and high wet grip correspond to categories A, B and C of the EU tyre label.
Our group has not had any major product recalls in more than 16 years. This demonstrates our careful product testing, thorough quality control and high quality raw materials. Furthermore, our company has not been involved in any legal proceedings regarding product liability.
Raw materials enter production through the laboratory
In addition to rubber compounds, we use steel and textiles in tyre production as reinforcing materials. Rubber compounds contain natural rubber, synthetic rubber, oils and fillers, such as carbon black and silica as well as sulfur and various chemicals.
In our production, we only use raw materials that have been approved by our laboratory. Before raw material batches can be used in rubber compounds, they must wait until our laboratory clears them for production.
In accordance with our purchasing policy, we purchase our raw materials from internationally reliable suppliers and our procurement process includes determining the suppliers’ commitment to the environmental aspects, employee rights and occupational safety.
Taking steps towards renewable raw materials and recycling of materials
The principle of sustainable safety that guides our product development also includes a promise of developing eco-friendly products and production technologies. In line with our strategy, we actively look for and test renewable raw materials, among other things. Our latest innovations will enter the market in early 2017.
We have continued our work on better material efficiency and recycling in production. In 2016, we looked into the recycling of materials in our production in order to be able to return secondary flows to production without compromising product characteristics. We have also investigated the possibility of using recycled carbon black and rubber sourced from used tyres as a raw material in production, both as filler and a replacement for virgin rubber.
Renewable raw materials replace fossil raw materials
Nokian Tyres’ Materials development invests in seeking and using new raw materials. The goal is to create eco-friendlier tyres and replace fossil raw materials. This may not, however, alter the tyres’ product or safety characteristics.
A tyre typically contains 50% polymers, 30% fillers and 20% reinforcing materials, softeners and chemicals. Nokian Tyres aims at finding bio-based raw materials for all raw material groups. Bio-based raw materials replace fossil raw materials and result in eco-friendlier tyres. Furthermore, renewable raw materials are used for improving the tyres’ properties and performance.
We have carried out extensive work on renewable raw materials because the use of new raw materials requires a great deal of product development efforts and testing for finding the best combination of properties for a tyre. We have made the furthest progress in the use of renewable raw materials with bio-based oils, which will replace synthetic oils that are based on crude oil.
The eco-friendly tread compound of the Hakkapeliitta 9 improves winter grip
Following more than three years of product development, in late 2016 we started using a new bio-based raw material in our production that improves the elasticity of rubber. The Hakkapeliitta 9 winter tyre, which we launched in early 2017, features a new kind of rubber compound for winter use, which contains silica, canola oil, natural rubber and, especially, the new Green Elasto Proof biomaterial, which helps the rubber compound maintain its elasticity even in cold temperatures. The elasticity of the tread also boosts the operation of the sipes – the slits across the tread blocks – which improves grip on snow. The strong and durable chemical bonds of the new biomaterial enable the tread compound to offer the best possible grip year after year, even as the kilometres add up.
The use of this renewable raw material has not required us to change our production processes or had any significant effects on the energy consumption in production. However, renewable raw materials often increase the raw material costs of tyres.
Innovations maximise safety and eco-friendliness
One of Nokian Tyres’ product development goals is that new tyres’ properties are always better compared to the previous models. In 2016, we launched several new innovations that improve the safety and eco-friendliness of tyres.
The new technologies that we launched in 2016 result in safer summer tyres and provide better snow grip and handling for winter tyres, among other things. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 tyres feature a new kind of functional stud technology, where different types of studs in different parts of the tyre function as safety equipment that adapts to the winter weather.
Our product development focuses on eco-friendliness as well as safety. One way to do this is reducing rolling resistance, which reduces fuel consumption. We also pay constant attention to ensuring that our studded tyres have minimal road wear.
The most significant innovations in 2016
The innovations of the Nokian Hakka Blue 2 summer tyre improve wet grip
In 2016, with the Nokian Hakka Blue 2, we introduced a summer tyre which features a rubber compound designed for northern conditions and a new generation tread pattern. These innovations improve the wet grip of the tyre.
The Dry Touch concept combines three innovations, providing better grip for the summer tyre and preventing dangerous aquaplaning. In addition, the new functional rubber compound adapts to the changing temperatures. The rubber compound contains a renewable raw material, pine oil, which reduces the friction caused by molecular movement. This results in lower heat generation and rolling resistance and that reduces fuel consumption. The tyre’s steel belt structure is denser, which provides precise handling and better cut and puncture resistance.
The Nokian WR A4 brought even better grip for the varying Central European winter
Designed for the varying Central European winter conditions, the Nokian WR A4 winter tyre features innovations, which are the result of extensive computer modelling, laboratory comparisons and actual tests conducted with a vehicle. The most significant progress was made on snow. The tyre provides 5% better grip and handling on snow compared to the previous model.
Nokian WR A4 complemented our range of tyres specifically tailored for Central European conditions. The tyre’s innovations improve snow grip and handling under winter conditions and rapid temperature changes. The new rubber compound contains natural rubber, silica and canola oil. The innovative compound provides better grip under winter conditions, driving stability and wear resistance. Canola oil provides tear strength, which makes the tyre resistant to wear, impacts and punctures. The rubber compound lowers the rolling resistance, which reduces fuel consumption.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 introduces new stud technology
Launched in early 2017, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV feature a new kind of stud technology, which is the result of extensive product development efforts.
In the new functional studding technology, different types of studs in different parts of the tyre function as safety equipment that is designed to provide added safety in various driving scenarios. This patented functional studding solution is unique on the market and it ensures both great longitudinal grip and unparalleled lateral grip when cornering under winter conditions. It also provides stable and comfortable bare-road handling.
The lower the rolling resistance, the lower the fuel consumption
Rolling resistance means the energy consumed by the deformation during the road contact of the tyre. The rolling resistance of tyres may differ greatly: tyres with low rolling resistance may save more than 0.6 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and reduce CO2 emissions by 14 g/km.
This deformation and the amount of energy it requires can be influenced with structural and material choices in tyre design. Examples of factors that affect energy consumption include the temperature of the tyre, inflation pressure, wheel load and tyre wear as well as drag and turbulence due to the driving speed.
Improving the fuel economy of tyres is one of our most significant product development targets in the near future. Through determined and long-term product development, we have managed to reduce the rolling resistance of our tyres even further. We have achieved this by improving the tread patterns and surface rubber compounds, among other things.
Rolling resistance is expressed with a rolling resistance coefficient: the greater the coefficient, the heavier the tyre rolls. At the moment, class C is the most common fuel economy rating for Nokian Tyres’ passenger car tyres according to the EU tyre label. Class B is the second most common class. The EU tyre label reports fuel efficiency on a scale from A to G. A difference of approximately 40% in rolling resistance results, on average, in a difference of 5–6% in fuel consumption. Such a difference may occur, for example, between tyres with a class A and class F fuel efficiency rating, respectively. A wise choice of tyres and a careful driving style significantly reduce the CO2 emissions from driving.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tyre receives the Tire of the Year 2016 award
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tyre (size 155/70R19) won the Tire Technology of the Year 2016 award. This genuine Nordic winter tyre is designed for BMW’s unique i3 electric car, and it combines low rolling resistance, first-class grip and driving comfort.
The modern addition to the Nokian Hakkapeliitta family represents future technology. It is the world’s first winter tyre with a class A energy rating, the best in the EU tyre label. According to tests, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 reduces rolling resistance by up to 30%. Lower energy consumption extends the range of the electric car in cold winter weather which poses a challenge for the car’s batteries. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 demonstrates that energy-efficiency can be achieved without compromising on excellent winter grip.
Product testing practices
Before tyres are delivered from our production to customers, they undergo several tests depending on the market, which examine the tyre’s behaviour in a range of conditions as well as its durability and eco-friendliness. On average, a winter tyre goes through 20 approval tests conducted by the authorities or their appointed accredited research laboratories.
Communities, regions (such as the EU) and organisations (such as the UN) have all specified standards that a tyre must meet before entering the market. Our large markets, the Nordic countries, Central Europe, Russia and the United States, use a total of 28 tyre tests that examine the properties of finished products and their handling under various conditions. In addition to this, certain regions subject tyres to their own tests, mostly concerning safety.
Each testing organisation uses its own testing practices. Most tests must be carried out by an accredited testing laboratory. The EU and UN tests, for example, may only be performed by a research laboratory which is audited and appointed by the national approval authority and which has international ISO 17025 accreditation.
In 2016, similar to several years before that, the practices were made stricter due to advancements in the technology, tests and products. As new developments happen at a different pace in different regions, our company is constantly subject to new requirements and changes.
In Europe, for example, wet grip tests became mandatory for new van, truck and bus tyres in 2016. In addition, the limits for rolling resistance and tyre noise became stricter for new products. We, however, had proactively ensured that our new products comply with the new regulations.
External, independent testing and auditing
Tyre testing involves the verification of production consistency and quality. Nokian Tyres’ production supplies tyres for quality assurance testing according to the requirements of each test and approval authority. Some tests are carried out in our own laboratories and controlled by the authorities while some are assigned to external, independent laboratories. Because there are numerous tests and testing bodies, production continuously supplies tyres for testing. Furthermore, external parties regularly audit the production of Nokian Tyres.
We are committed to ensuring that every tyre we make complies with all the requirements as long as we manufacture the tyre model. If a tyre model is changed during its life cycle, we are committed to ensuring its continued compliance with the standards.
Tighter regulations guide our product development
In part, Nokian Tyres’ product development is guided by the tightening limits and tests. For instance, Finland has some of the strictest legislation that guides the manufacturing of studded tyres. Experts say that the new stud legislation that came into force in July 2013 substantially reduces road wear and minimises the effect of studded tyres on the generation of street dust. Rather than stipulating indirect parameters, whose effect on the actual road wear the authorities would then have to evaluate, the amended stud legislation provides specific wear limits. This provides tyre manufacturers with the freedom to create innovative solutions.
Nokian Tyres’ product development responded to the new legislation with the stud cushion that dampens the stud’s dynamic impact on the road. It was introduced with the Hakkapeliitta 8 tyre. We have also managed to reduce road wear with lighter and shorter studs. Driving speed and the weight, shape and material of the stud and the structure of the tyre can all substantially affect road wear. We were able to increase the number of studs while reducing road wear. Read also our test tyre policy.
Putting our tyres’ safety and characteristics to the test
Our tyres undergo various laboratory and field tests. Some examples of the tests:
- High Speed structural durability testing examines tyres under extreme conditions, such as maximum load and a range of temperatures.
- Endurance testing in laboratory conditions examines structural durability during a prolonged load and under very high temperatures.
- Run Flat testing measures the driving distance of a special tyre when flat.
- The rolling resistance testing measures a tyre’s fuel economy.
- There are various snow grip tests for different types of tyres. For passenger car tyres, for example, we measure the braking distance under specific conditions, among other parameters.
- Road wear testing indicates the asphalt wear caused by studded tyres.
- Wet grip testing comprises a field braking test performed on a special track under specific conditions.
- External rolling noise testing is performed on the field. It measures the noise from the tyres of a passing car driving under specific conditions on a standardised asphalt surface.
- Ice grip testing is performed on the field as a braking test on ice. It is very important for Nordic consumers.
Field testing under actual conditions and our new test facility in Spain
We test and develop our tyres under actual conditions because even the best instruments cannot capture the driving feel of a tyre. Our Ivalo Testing Center White Hell performs tests from November until late spring. In the near future, we will start building a new test facility and technology centre in Spain.
Each year, Nokian Tyres’ test drivers cover hundreds of thousands of kilometres, feeling, sensing and evaluating the tyres. We have been performing winter tyre tests in our Ivalo Testing Center White Hell since 1986. The location of the Ivalo Testing Center between the Arctic and mild climates makes it ideal for demanding tyre testing. Covering more than 700 hectares, the testing centre offers more than 30 different tracks for testing tyres under the actual winter conditions that can occur on northern and Central European roads. Over 20,000 tyres are tested and over 40,000 test kilometres are driven during the period from November to May. Due to temperature variation, tests are also run at night.
Nokian Tyres’ testing centre in Nokia tests tyres from April to November. The testing centre features an automatic sprinkler system, which is one of a kind in the world.
Nokian Tyres has made plans to start testing summer and winter tyres on its new test track within few years. The purpose of the versatile testing centre is to boost the company’s year-round product development. The 300 hectare testing center is one of the single biggest investments in product development. According to the plans, the centre will utilise state-of-the-art technology and its central test track will be a five-kilometre oval track that circles the area and allows for speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour. In particular, the new technology centre will be used for testing summer tyres with a high speed rating as well as for winter tyres.