Here’s a fact: Electric vehicle drivers who aren’t using tires built to handle the unique needs of EVs are only getting a surface-level EV experience. It’s like going to a 3D movie without your 3D glasses – sure, you still enjoyed the show, but you didn’t experience it the way it was intended. In the case of EVs, drivers are missing out on performance, tire longevity and, depending on the EV tire spec’d, potentially dozens of extra miles of EV range per charge.
That puts a lot of responsibility on the backs of tire manufacturers, especially in the North American market where big batteries are only recently picking up steam as a viable replacement for the tried-and-true internal combustion engine. But companies like Sailun Tire, who have put in the work to develop new rubber compounds and engineer new models, are taking up the torch to show drivers how much EV potential can truly be unlocked with the right tires under their feet.
Ron Dolan, president of Sailun Tires America, says the company’s new EV tire offering, the ERange, is one Sailun can hang its hat on to become a leader in the electrified vehicle segment. Read on as Dolan tells us the ins and outs of how Sailun is bringing this tire to market; the ERange’s development path; Sailun’s electrification marketing strategy; and what the ERange could mean for future tire development.
David Sickels: Let’s start by talking about your new compound, the EcoPoint3. You say this is a game-changer for your EV-specific tire, the ERange EV, when it comes to longevity, performance and rolling resistance. How so?
Ron Dolan: When [our engineers] told us all the attributes of this new compound, we said, ‘You’re telling me there’s low rolling resistance at a level that other people have never achieved? You’re saying that you still will be able to stop quickly, and the tire will last a long time?’ Those three things don’t generally expand together, one usually sacrifices when you expand the other two.
So, of course, we heard this, and like anybody, we’re human beings who are skeptical. So, we gave them a leading competitor, a Tier 1, to benchmark against. We did that and it turned out fantastic. We hit all our benchmarks that we gave them, and the big one was the rolling resistance. It had 15% better rolling resistance, which equates to about a 7% extended battery range, and versus who we’re comparing to, that’s really amazing.
So, thinking about it, we just had an epiphany one day. It’s just right with the timing of electric vehicles.
From there, we had this fantastic tire, but I wasn’t sure we really knew what people [who own EVs] really go through on a daily basis, or what they really want [in an EV tire]. So, I started learning myself with my own EV. Then obviously I spreaded what I learned to our marketing team, and between having a fantastic product, the learnings that we had and the real-world experience with the tire, we knew we had a home run.
Do you see either this specific compound or the “liquid phase technology” used to create this compound influencing your tires down the line whether they’re made for EVs or not?
Absolutely. People will say, “Why did you go specific to EVs? Why wouldn’t it just apply it to any vehicle?” It’s because we really want to be known as a leader in the segment. These are high-torque vehicles, and the tires do wear quicker. You have to have a high-wearing compound, and we don’t believe that conventional tires with high-wearing compounds will have the ability to have wet grip at the level that we have achieved. You also need a tire with extra load or extra carrying capacity for the heaviness of the batteries. We also accomplished that. The stability of the tire – it almost feels like an HP tire, but it’s an all-season.
There are a lot of areas we think could be a great fit for this technology, but we’re going to be very careful and very deliberate on how we do that. We are working on several projects in multiple segments where liquid phase mixing technology will amplify our current performance.
What about commercial?
We have medium truck [testing] where we’re seeing less fuel consumption, and we’re seeing some initial results that are fantastic for long-haul trucking. I think over the next four or five years you’ll see a lot of products come out, but know that if we put EcoPoint3 technology into it, we’re going to be at another level of scrutiny, because now we believe that we have something very special. So, it’s not just car tires. It’s really limitless.
Do you foresee different versions of the ERange EV being articulated for different tire segments? Maybe a winter version or an all-weather version?
Yeah, we’re thinking about that. At this point, we’re not seeing a pure winter tire as something that we’re going to do right away. We are very open to all-weather, and we’re looking at that, but no decision has been made at this point.
EVs are gaining in popularity, but obviously, a lot of people are still… we’ll say ‘iffy’ on them. What role do you think the tire industry has to play in giving EVs some more traction in the realm of public trust?
I think for the tire industry it’s not so much about promoting EVs. That’s the job of the car companies to educate. But I’d say a role that the entire tire industry can play is to take that extra few minutes when someone comes in to replace their first set of OEM tires, and they think that they can just put on a regular conventional tire. I’m not even saying this just to promote ERange, I’m saying there is a difference with EV-specific tires that do add value to the user, and I think a five-minute spiel just to educate them is going to be important.
Do you believe that your typical EV driver is aware that EV tires even exist?
No, I don’t believe that the consensus is there. So, that comes back to why we made an EV-specific tire. It’s because we’re going to target the EV buyer through where they live today. They’re a very digital savvy group of people. When they’re deciding what vehicle they’re going to buy, they’re going to see ERange, too. Hopefully, we can help the whole industry with that education.
Traditionally, a lot of people learn about tires from their tire dealer. Do you think that nowadays, with this kind of tire, they are going to get that EV tire education from the tire dealer, or are they more likely going to get that from the internet?
I think that the early adopters of EVs will be 50/50 on that. And, by the way, today it’s about eight out of 10 who rely on their counter person to guide them on their [tire] purchase. So, the fact that I think it’s going to be half internet is a big compliment to the internet.
Of course, I think we have to be both places. Hopefully, we’ll educate on the internet, and then we’re going to educate our counter people who sell the product to just take that five minutes to explain the key benefits.
Have kinks in the supply chain affected the development or distribution for this tire in any way?
No, we were very lucky. We had a few hiccups but compared to the market, we were very fortunate. And the good news is that we are seeing a calming in the supply chain. So, beyond electric vehicle tires, I’d like just to share with our customers and potential customers that we’re very optimistic on 2023, and on logistics and Asia. Not just for us, but I’m sure our competitors as well.
What’s your distribution plan for this product?
TBC is the exclusive distributor of Sailun and ERange EV for the U.S. TBC also looks after Mexico for us. Then, in Canada, we have four or five regional retailers and/or wholesalers that will take care of distribution for us in Canada.
TBC’s been a long partner of ours in the United States and Mexico. We believe that with our marketing and technology and manufacturing capabilities along with their fully integrated distribution network, we really have a fully integrated ease of getting our tire to any end user in the United States. And, of course, our great dealers in Canada will take care of it up in the north.