Kwik Fit | Thursday 5th June 2014 4:00pm
Continental tyres are the product of over 140 years of German engineering, combining advanced handling and performance with superb braking. But what is it that makes Continental one of the world’s most trusted tyre manufacturers, with one in three cars in Europe fitted with Continental tyres as original equipment? The extensive testing that every Continental tyre concept undergoes is certainly one of the reasons and Continental’s testing facilities in Germany are considered as the benchmark in modern test facilities by many in the automotive industry.
The facility in Jeversen, a little town not far from Hanover, is known as the Contidrom, and it’s here since 1967 that all manner of Continental tyre tests have taken place.
The Contidrom combines a 2.8km high-speed oval track allowing for speeds of up to 155mph, a longer but more demanding 3.8km track featuring several turns and corners for testing vehicle handling, and a 1,800-metre long wet handling track with sprinkler systems installed along the roadway for testing the braking performance and aquaplaning behaviour of new concept Continental tyres. In addition there are special tracks for testing off-road conditions and taking noise readings. It’s on these outdoor tracks that Continental’s expert test drivers carry out most of the subjective tyre testing from handling to noise and comfort levels - a complete assessment and standardised procedure is followed for every new Continental tyre in development.
But it’s not all about test tracks and road testing. Under the roof, the Contidrom hides several other interesting testing environments that provide far more objective and measurable results. The latest addition is the Automated Indoor Braking Analyzer (AIBA) – the world’s only fully-automated weather independent tyre testing facility. The 300m-long hall features an unmanned vehicle with automatic controls. Not only can the speed and braking of the vehicle be controlled but the track surface and ambient temperature can also be modified. This makes the AIBA unique in that it is not weather dependent like outdoor test tracks. Instead the environment can be controlled to recreate hot, wet and even freezing conditions that are consistent from one test to the next.
The Contidrom is the centre-piece of Conti’s tyre testing facilities and around two million Continental tyres for cars, trucks and motorcycles have been tested here to date. But the mild German climate does not lend itself to the testing of winter tyres, even with the AIBA’s ability to recreate icy conditions. No, when it comes to winter tyres, Continental’s mentality is one of “you can’t beat the real thing” and so testing leaves the Contidrom in favour of facilities in Scandinavia and the USA boasting natural winter test conditions.
While Continental’s Michigan-based proving grounds provide ideal conditions for year round testing of both summer and winter tyres, Conti’s Scandinavian facilities are designed (and located) purely for the benefit of winter tyre development. Located in Jokkmokk, 10km north of the Arctic Circle in Northern Lapland, and Arvidsjaur, another 150km north-east in Sweden, these test tracks are perfect for winter tyre tests on snow and ice and can be combined to ideally match desired test conditions. Continental’s Scandinavian tracks are incredibly versatile and are newly developed each year after the onset of winter, often with sections over frozen water. In order to achieve reproducible results, the tracks are freshly prepared each and every day.
Continental’s state-of-the-art tyre development facilities have not gone unnoticed, with the company being awarded many recent awards including Test Track of the Year in 2013 for the Contidrom (Automotive Testing Technology International) and Tyre Manufacturer of the Year 2014 (Tire Technology International).
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