Michelin doesn't race in Formula 1, but it's using electric motorsport to make gains in the all-important fields of grip and rolling resistance.
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Formula E hasn't been around long. It's only five years old, certainly not since the beginning of motoring, but lessons from the electric single-seat series are already sneaking onto the school run.

Michelin has been on board with Formula E since day one, developing the Pilot Sport EV (generation one cars) and now the Pilot Sport for the growing category, and says it's already transferred tech from the e-prix circuit into its production tyres.

"We want to be involved in motorsport where we can test and promote technology that makes sense, that is in the philosophy of better, more sustainable mobility," said Serge Grisin, manager of Formula E for Michelin, in the paddock of the Berlin e-Prix.

"And technology we can transfer on street tyres," he said, "we learn from the race to do better tyres."

That's why the tread pattern on the racing Pilot Sport closely matches that of Pilot Sport 4S road tyres. Michelin says the road and track teams worked side-by-side throughout development, transferring lessons from the former to the latter.

It's also why the mainstream Pilot Sport 4S uses a hydrophobic silica compound developed on the track, designed to better disperse water at speed.

Compared to Formula 1, which advocates degradation and multiple mid-race tyre changes, Michelin says the focus on extracting maximum performance in any weather makes Formula E a perfect place to hone its production rubber.

While we're comparing Formula E with Formula 1, the Pilot Sport tyres you see here are used rain, hail or shine. Forget dry, intermediate and wet compounds. Formula E teams only get two sets per race weekend, too.

The 53rd Formula E race was its first in the wet, with drivers lapping sodden downtown Paris without careening into the barriers – for the most part, at least. Consider that proof of concept, given the same tyre supports single-seaters doing up to 280km/h in the dry.

"It was very interesting to finally validate the concept," Grisin said of the Paris race. "In terms of performance, if you had these conditions with slick tyres I think it would have been a big mess, because it was not only rain."

"It was cold, it was ice, it would have been a nightmare for the drivers."

"With these tyres they just have to adjust the speed, but they can continue. For us it was a very interesting race," he went on.

Along with creating a tyre for all weather, one of the biggest challenges associated with Formula E is eking every last drop from the battery. For the first four seasons, drivers had two cars: one for the first half of the race, and one to swap into when the first went flat.

A new battery from McLaren Applied Technologies has eliminated the mid-race swap, but they still hold barely enough charge for a full race. That's swung the spotlight at Michelin onto "development on energy efficiency", making sure traction doesn't come at the cost of driving range.

"We all know that one of the sensitive points on electric cars is the range of the car," Grisin explained, arguing 25% of energy consumption in all cars is down to the tyres. Regardless of what powers your car, petrol or electricity, lowering that figure can only be a good thing."

"[Formula E] has allowed us to... improve and innovate in the field of energy efficiency by the tyre. It's clearly interesting, because it's something that makes a lot of sense for the street tyres," he continued.

Michelin makes the Formula E Pilot Sport in 235/40 (front) and 305/40 (rear), and the control OZ Racing wheel is an 18-inch unit. They're very close to street car sizes, as you may have gathered, further reinforcing the link between the race Pilot Sport and its road-going counterpart.

Races are exclusively held on street circuits, which means each surface is different, and most can be related to everyday conditions.

The Berlin e-prix is run on Flughafen Tempelhof airfield's abrasive concrete, and the streets of New York are lined with imperfections you'd never see on a racetrack. Managing wear in a broad range of conditions is, once again, crucial in developing road tyres.

As for how the drivers feel? The tyres make life tricky for drivers used to slicks and smooth tracks. Speaking with CarAdvice after his second-place finish in Berlin, Sebastien Buemi described the rubber as a "very important factor" in the success of Formula E.

"The have, as you can imagine, a bit less grip [than a slick]," Buemi explained.

"They are difficult to drive, they are difficult to handle. We've seen lots of cars moving around and mistakes from drivers, so I think at the end that's why it's entertaining."