When recession starts to bite and work is in short supply, there’s always the risk that van owners will skimp on maintenance to save a bit of cash; and tyres may be the first items on a vehicle to suffer. Odd tread wear patterns, including bald patches, are ignored. So are suspicious-looking bulges in the sidewall because doing something about them might cost money. Such supposed savings represent a false economy and are likely to place whoever is at the wheel in serious danger; not to mention other road users.
After all, tyres represent the vital link between your vehicle and the road surface. If they fail because they haven’t been looked after or replaced when necessary, then you’re in severe trouble. The importance of this link is continually stressed, not surprisingly, by Michelin. Over the years it has pumped vast sums of money into light commercial tyre development and the latest Agilis represents one of the fruits of all this investment.
Winner of our What Van? Technology award for 2008, and designed for light commercials grossing at from 2.8 to 3.5 tonnes, it replaces the old Agilis 61, 81 and 101 tyres. Aimed at smaller vans, the 41 and 51 will be replaced over the next couple of years.
Michelin’s latest offering has been designed to provide increased grip, robustness and longevity as well as providing a reduction in fuel consumption and thus lower CO2 emissions. The tread pattern is far more truck-like than it was on the previous version of Agilis, with larger blocks and wide trenches for better water egress. Improved rubber compounds mean that there is less deformation of the blocks under load. This helps keep the temperature down, improve performance and reduce fuel consumption.
The new Agilis also features the most up-to-date contact patch technology introduced as a consequence of Michelin’s experience with truck tyres. The contact patch — ie the area of the tyre that’s in contact with the road surface at any one time — is now much squarer than it used to be.
Van tyres can take a severe battering in service, perpetually bashed against kerbs and even mounting the pavement every so often. As a consequence, and like its predecessor, the latest Agilis comes with a series of raised blocks 6mm deep around the sidewall and the rubber used has been strengthened.
Under testing the tyre was scraped repeatedly against a kerb in an exercise that simulated some two years worth of use. The blocks lost a mere 1mm of depth. Michelin reckons the newcomer is good for an average 85,000km; 20 per cent more than the tyre it replaces.
To show the extent to which rolling resistance has been reduced — a key consideration when it comes to cutting fuel bills and CO2 output — Michelin rolled two identical Fiat Ducato vans each laden with a 1,000kg test load down a shallow incline. The one fitted with new Agilis rolled 18m further than its stable-mate, which was on the old version.
This equates to a saving of 0.2 litres of diesel every 62 miles. Not a huge amount, agreed, but the saving soon mounts up over a year; and any cut in CO2 emissions, however modest, has to be applauded.