Tyre manufacturer acquires winter proving ground

| Industrial Sector News

Ivalo winter tyre testing track north of the Arctic circle

The Ivalo proving grounds in Finland will continue to provide Michelin with testing facilities to test tyre performance on harsh road conditions.

The bleak conditions of the remote and tiny Lapland town of Ivalo in the northern part of Finland with its spectacular views of the Northern Lights and associations with reindeers and winter tourism seems an unlikely setting for a high technology testing complex. However, this has been the venue for Michelin’s winter tyre testing for the last three decades, a relationship with the township that has now culminated in the tyre giant purchasing the test facility so that it has total and exclusive control over it.

Finland has always been a favourite place for Michelin to test the performance of its winter tyres and the company has had an association with the country for 70 years, mainly due to the specific conditions that the Finland offers during the winter months between November and March. The tyre giant also performs winter testing in the USA, France, Japan and Sweden but the vast majority of its testing takes place in Finland.

The Arctic Test Centre at Fox Farm in Ivalo provides a particular kind of snow that has a different consistency to Alpine snow and provides the tyre company with the optimum conditions for both test and development work on new tyres as well as the ability to perform certification work for the 3 PMSF (3 Peaks Mountain Snow Flake) European tyre mark.

With a location sited some 300km north of the Arctic Circle, Ivalo has permanent temperatures of below freezing in the winter months and snow cover of a reliable consistency. The 60 hectare facility contains 20 hectares of proving grounds including four circuits, a ramp for testing incline performance, two ice covered skid pans and other specialised testing areas.

Testing is performed broadly in two categories, snow driving and ice driving. Starting from standstill and acceleration, braking, traction, handling behaviour, transverse grip and longitudinal grip are all put to the test for both snow-covered and icy surfaces.

Of the roughly 12,000km of winter testing that Michelin performs annually, around 2000km are undertaken in Alpine conditions in Europe and the remaining 10,000km are driven at the Ivalo proving grounds, where the company has covered over a quarter of a million kilometers of tests since 1988.

Last year, 2000 tyres were tested at the facility, with two-thirds of them undergoing the “Alpine circuit” at Ivalo for tyres destined for the European market and the remainder undergoing the more strenuous “X Ice circuit” to meet the extremely demanding requirements of the Nordic countries and Russia.

Jonathan Newell
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