Friday, 27 November 2015

GUEST – Tires of the Future – What's on the Horizon?

For most people, even those who are interested in the automotive industry, tires are often the afterthought. Most of us do not know the first thing about tire history, the different technological advancements that lead to the tires of today, or even the differences between the different types of tires for our vehicles. When it comes to the future and what different companies are working on, most of us are either disinterested or believe this is it; that tires are not going to get any better. That's way off the mark. James D. Burbank writes.

The reality is that all the major tire manufacturers are spending quite a bit on research and development, working hard towards new solutions that will improve future tires. Some of them wish to make tires more environmentally friendly, others want to reduce fuel consumption while others look to make them safer than they are at the moment. But who is doing what exactly?

Michelin's Search For Reduced Fuel Consumption

Believe it or not, tires have a significant influence on how much fuel a car uses; through drag specifications and aerodynamic properties of tires. According to Dr. Patrick Oliva, Michelin's president for Sustainable Development, tire properties today make up for 10% of overall oil consumption in the world.

This is not a small number by any means, and Michelin is looking to reduce this through new technologies that will improve the fuel economy of their tires. Michelin has already done quite a bit about this, improving the fuel economy of cars which use their tires. They have managed to achieve a 10% drop in fuel consumption with the last five generations of their tires, after adopting a Green Tires initiative. In the future, they hope to do even better.

Airless Tires for Improved Safety
In addition to making tires more environmentally friendly, most manufacturers are also working on solutions that would make them safer. One way to do this is to develop airless tires which would never pose a risk of puncture and blown tires which can lead to traffic accidents.

Bridgestone, for instance, has a non-pneumatic tire in development; one which would also be more environmentally-friendly through use of special materials. Hankook are also working on this, with a concept called iFlex, an intriguing design which would also be airless and would also be compatible with existing vehicles.

Goodyear's Two Concepts

Another tire manufacturer that is looking to the future is Goodyear with not just one concept for the years and decades to come, but two. To be honest, we expected nothing less from one of the most forward-thinking tire manufacturers.

The first of these two concepts is the Triple Tube tire. As the name suggests, the tire would feature three separate tubes which could be inflated or deflated according to road conditions and the desired behavior of the vehicle. These three "settings" would make the car safer, more responsive and also more fuel efficient.

BHO3 is the name of their second concept, a tire that would be mounted on electric cars and that would contribute to their fuel efficiency and performance. Namely, this tire is envisioned to transform the heat generated by a rolling tire into electrical energy that could then be used to fuel the battery. It is definitely an intriguing concept and one we are interested to see put in action.

Closing Word

As you can see, innovations in the tire industry are not rare or infrequent. In fact, there is quite a bit going on and you would do well to get involved, get your facts straight and join in the fun. This blog, for instance, is a great place to start.

About the author:

James D. Burbank has been buried in the world of business his entire career. When he has the time, he reads about cars and follows the latest advancements in automotive technology. You can check him out on Twitter - @JBurbank2019. Don't expect too much, though.

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