Far from running their tyres until they are bald and illegal, many van operators err on the side of caution and take their tyres off too early, thereby losing money.
In response, Michelin has equipped the CrossClimate with a tread-wear indicator within the groove, which gives a percentage of the tread remaining. The scale counts down from 100% to 0% in 25% steps. The initial tread depth is 9.2mm when new. With 0% denoting the legal limit of 1.6mm, that gives the van owner 7.6mm of rubber to play with.
Due to be rolled out steadily to the general van-buying public from May onwards, the CrossClimate is available in 15in and 16in sizes, with a 17in on its way at some point in the future.
Chaylard says the tyre will be around 15% more expensive than a standard summer tyre, although that percentage may vary from market to market, and major fleet operators will doubtless use their purchasing clout to negotiate a better deal.
The savings the newcomer offers go a long way towards outweighing any price premium, however. It gives at least 35% more mileage than the average performance of summer, winter and all-seasons premium tyres, according to tests carried out by Dekra, the German vehicle inspection company, says Michelin. In the warmer months it has a summer tyre’s dry and wet braking capability, says Chaylard.
“You will not suffer a fuel consumption penalty,” he adds. “The rolling resistance is the same as that of a summer tyre and better than that of an ordinary winter tyre.”
And nor, as we found, does its all-round performance suffer in ice and snow.
Michelin has reduced the CrossClimate’s weight by 0.5kg compared with that of a summer tyre, giving van owners a potential payload boost of 2.0kg, or 2.5kg if you carry a spare wheel. It doesn’t sound like much, agreed, but if you happen to run a tight-on-payload supermarket home-delivery fleet, every kilo saved counts.
The CrossClimate is the result of five years of feedback from van operators in the UK, France, Germany, and Turkey, says Michelin. It involved thousands of interviews conducted by Paris-based external market research house GMV Conseil. All-seasons capability, longevity and an ability to resist damage were the key requirements that came out of that research.
What Van? decided to find out how the tyres performed by travelling to the French Alps in winter and taking a fully laden Iveco Daily 35.130 3.5t van up the steep, twisting Col de la Bonette mountain pass. At 2,800m above sea level and 15km long, it is Europe’s highest road – although that claim is regularly disputed – and was covered with snow and the occasional patch of ice.
The road is closed to the public from mid-December to the end of February because it is deemed to be too hazardous, and is at risk of being hit by the odd minor avalanche. It is during this period that Michelin uses it for tyre testing, at temperatures as low as -15°C.