Maxxis unveils $150m Shanghai proving ground
Maxxis International has held a grand opening ceremony attended by nearly 400 domestic dignitaries and overseas partners for its new Maxxis Proving Ground in Kunshan City, directly adjacent to the company’s Shanghai manufacturing plant. The 860,000sqm comprehensive testing facility is estimated to have cost more than US$150 million, and is thought to be the first proving ground on such a large and all-encompassing scale in China. Cheng Shin Rubber Ind. Co., Ltd., doing business as Maxxis International, calls its new testing facility the country’s “first international standard proving ground”. Backing up this claim, Tyres & Accessories/Tyrepress.com was informed at the opening that at least one European original equipment manufacturer – Mercedes – had given Maxxis input into the facilities required at the proving ground to continue to build its OE supply, while a construction firm from Japan was consulted, though it was built by the Chinese.
Dedicated entirely to tyre testing, the Maxxis Proving Ground houses an impressive range of testing tracks and facilities within its 5.2km perimeter. Visitors to the opening were treated to a tour of the facilities. Nearly taking the entire route of the perimeter is the 4.5km high speed track, which is 12m wide to contain three lanes. The track has two banked sections with a maximum angle of 45° – in order to negotiate this angle on the outer lane, vehicles must travel at a minimum speed of 160kmh, though the track is designed to allow cars to maintain high speeds of up to 230kmh. Visitors were shown vehicles travelling at 200kmh on the steep banked corner.
At this section, where the fireworks of the opening were held, Maxxis also demonstrated its 125m radius dry skidpad. The manufacturer said this had posed one of the biggest technical challenges in construction, due to the high degree of flatness required to test the handling of tyres under aggressive driving with its new detection instruments. Additionally, the facility’s adjacent 60m radius wet skidpad has been constructed with six different surfaces, allowing the company to test tyres on surfaces with friction coefficients between 0.3, simulating snow and ice, and 0.7.
The company said its 1.4km wet handling performance test course – between 6m and 9m wide – is “the only one of its kind in China”. Including the wet skidpad, the proving ground has 370 sprinklers, which are centrally controlled from computers, allowing the company to test rubber on surfaces covered with a water depth of up to 10mm. This adaptability allows it to test for wet handling in a variety of rain conditions, as well as for longitudinal and latitudinal hydroplaning. Indeed, the company has also built in a hydroplaning test area, with a camera capable of 5,000 exposures per second installed under a layer of tempered glass to capture water being channelled through tread patterns.
On the general performance test course, T&A was shown a 1.2km track, with a 40m width to house high-speed lane change tests at up to 130kmh and slalom handling evaluation. This track also connects to the high speed track, allowing these evaluations to raise the speed to around 200kmh. A separate 2.5km dry handling course on the other side of the proving ground is used for the evaluation of tyres on different curves and at different speeds. The course has been designed to test vehicle stability under a wide variety of dynamic handling manoeuvres.
With a total length of 1.2km and a 200m test area, the braking performance test course has six different track materials representing friction coefficients between 0.2 and 0.8, allowing it to simulate braking conditions in snow and ice. Maxxis claimed that the equipment in the u-S test trailer on the course has the only equipment in China for measuring braking friction coefficients of tyres on road surfaces.
The proving ground rounds out its impressive range of tyre testing facilities with an ISO noise test course designed with a road surface to comply with international standards such as those found on the EU tyre label, and a noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) test course. The NVH course has eight different road surface designs, taking into account single or continuous sound waves of various amplitudes. Across these are five different roughness designs, which will allow for comfort evaluations across a wide variety of road conditions.
Held on 16 November, the opening gathered local government officials alongside a national delegation and one of the country’s best-known sportspeople, the former National Basketball Association star Yao Ming, who grew up in Jiangsu Province near the Proving Ground’s location. From the UK, Maxxis International UK’s managing director Derek McMartin was joined by the brand’s distributor Stapletons, represented by overseas sourcing manager Jon Oram.