Interview with Fabio Marcola Lopes, Managing Director of PIRELLI Asia Pte Ltd
Pirelli is one of the most recognised tyre brands in the world, especially for its performance tyres (even though it also makes tyres for normal cars). At the just concluded Singapore Grand Prix, Pirelli is also the official F1 tyre supplier. It celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2022.
Today, it faces a future of electrified vehicles and a greater awareness and expectation among customers for sustainability and social responsibility. The company produces the world’s first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified tyres, made of FSC-certified natural rubber and rayon. These materials come from plantations, specifically managed to protect and maintain the surrounding biodiversity while taking care of the welfare of workers.
We spoke to Fabio Marcola Lopes, Managing Director of PIRELLI Asia Pte Ltd, to get a glimpse of how the company is changing in face of these new trends.
Cars are changing with a trend towards electric vehicles. How has this changed PIRELLI's products?
Tyres have inevitably become more crucial in electric vehicles given the growing impact on vehicle performance. It is one of the reasons why high-value quality tyres and proper tyre management are now more important than ever.
As the demand for hybrid and electric cars in the Southeast region continues to grow, PIRELLI has developed the Elect™ tyres that are engineered specifically to satisfy particular needs of electric cars, in order to capitalise on the car’s performance, with a specific compound, construction and tread pattern design and thereby fulfil this accelerating automotive segment.
Do electric vehicles require special tyres? What special engineering has been made for electric vehicles?
PIRELLI engineers have been working very closely with the most prestigious car manufacturers to create the perfect fit between car and tyre.
The development of Elect™ tyres took into consideration the following characteristics:
i. Low consumption: PIRELLI tyres with Elect™ technology optimise battery life thanks to their low rolling resistance.
ii. Instant torque. Compared to conventional internal combustion engines, electric vehicles transmit immediate torque to the wheels. To transfer this power onto the tyres without excessive wear, Elect™ tyres have a specific compound that delivers immediate grip.
iii. Weight. The weight of the batteries means that electric vehicles have a unique vertical weight distribution. Elect™ tyres are specially developed to support this weight thanks to an optimal combination of materials, layout, design and correct deformation of the structure enhancing the control of the performance of the vehicle.
iv. Noise. Elect™ tyres have an optimised tread pattern and structure design to minimise noise when driving along, helping electric cars to move silently and enhance driving comfort.
There are more than 250 PIRELLI Elect tyres approved for electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles worldwide by main car manufacturers in the last year. This result confirms the acceleration of the market towards electrified mobility but also how carmakers find PIRELLI Elect tyres to have the most suitable characteristics for their electric vehicles.
How will PIRELLI differentiate itself from other tyre brands in the next decade?
As a global brand, PIRELLI is known for its cutting-edge technology, high-end production excellence, strong commitment to R&D and passion for innovation that draws heavily on its Italian roots. For 150 years, PIRELLI has built its identity on these elements and even more so in today’s context through art, design and with an innovative way of doing business communication.
This is what has made the PIRELLI brand one of the best known in the world and especially in recent years that the automotive market undergoes profound changes, we continue to leverage on our expertise and passion to be able to compete globally. Tomorrow, as today, we will continue to produce increasingly sustainable, safe and high-performance products, following the path that has made the company to be among the world’s leading tyre producers and as a point of reference for the high value tyre market.
Performance cars have also changed and now have very torque rich drivetrains. Has this changed requirements for its high performance tyres?
With the solid and long-lasting partnerships that PIRELLI has established with prestigious and premium automotive manufacturers globally, more often than not, our growth of a specific tyre technology depends on the requirements and development of our OEM partners.
With PIRELLI’s PERFECT FIT strategy, every prestigious model was given its own dedicated tyre. The homologation process begins at the start of the tyre development stage, which is usually 2 – 3 years before the car is officially launched to the markets
The development process involves:
1) Co-Design (2 – 3 months): A synergic cooperation with top car manufacturers to suit the dynamic personality of each car model. To provide the best in terms of comfort and handling, or simply in terms of overall balance and performance.
2) Prototype Development (2 – 3 years): The creation of a base tyre with perfect interaction between advanced design activities and unique craftsmanship capabilities. Development through several tests: handling in both dry and wet conditions, aquaplaning behaviour, winter performance, rolling resistance, integrity and high speed.
3) Tyre Industrialisation (2 – 6 months): To ensure the high test standard of the product's quality, dedicated technologies, processes and materials are at the forefront of high performance tyre manufacturing.
This collaboration is achieved through dedicated technologies, processes and materials. By mixing these elements, PIRELLI is able to develop marked tyres, custom-made for any kind of vehicle. For example, you can see the Original Equipment marked tyres with the marking of “Star” for BMW, the marking “NO” for Porsche, “MC” for McLaren, and so on. With the close collaboration with OEM partners, PIRELLI has always been able to stay ahead of trends and latest technology.
Will PIRELLI's FSC-certified rubber be rolled out to the whole range?
At the moment, we are looking for the right opportunity to expand FSC Certified NR supply capacity, while already covering our whole range of tyres with natural rubber procured according to our Sustainable Natural Rubber Policy.