It’s not only cars that are getting a sustainable makeover — manufacturers are also developing new tires. From self-healing rubber to airless frames, consumers are in for a smooth ride. What we can expect next is a smart adaptable tire that can easily adjust to road conditions.
Specifically, this is all about two technologies called ContiSense and ContiAdapt. In simple terms you are looking at a tire that (1) could monitor and report on its health and (2) adjust its characteristics to road conditions.
Monitors measure tread depth and temperature, and its electrically-conductive rubber adjusts accordingly. It’s also completely wireless (can we get some wifi on there?).
“Depending on the tire pressure and rim width, different tread zones are activated and the concept tire adopts the required ‘footprint’ in each case.”
Like the Michelin projects, it’s going to be some time before the tires roll in. But with all this new technology, I can’t imagine slowing down would be too much of a bad idea.
With a slew of electric vehicles hitting the market, manufacturers are scrambling to follow up with high-tech tires. So far, the likes of Harvard and Michelin have come up with airless and self-healing wheels. While both aren’t yet commercially available, NASA is already lifting the bar with its titanium tire.
Instead of atoms deforming as the spring is moved, they instead re-arrange themselves as the tire is stressed. It’s known as a “shape memory alloy,” and means that the tire can be deformed virtually limitlessly, and still snap back to its original shape.
In short, the tire can never get a flat. As NASA’s brainchild, the tire mainly adheres to space explorations. Still, it could hypothetically exist on regular vehicles with some tweaks.
You can’t exactly use a metal wheel on the highway and expect much grip, but a metal frame could… be coated with a higher-friction material to give a tire that’s grippy and deformable for off-roading.
With NASA, I don’t imagine anything comes as a steal — but if it saves me a tire change, I’ll take it.
While recycled backpacks prove that car parts can be sustainable, the same can’t be said about tires. That is, until Michelin stepped in. The renowned automotive manufacturer has come out with a 3D printed clean tire that uses no air and is biodegradable.
The new Michelin VISION concept is a 3D-printed, airless, wheel-tire combination composed of organic, biodegradable materials, including orange zest, bamboo, molasses, wood, and natural rubber.
The eco-friendly tire eliminates the use of petroleum, which is hazardous when decomposing. Standard tires consume up to 38 liters of petroleum. VISION tires, because of their sustainable material, don’t need replacing.
It can be “recharged” as often as necessary with a new layer of treads; the 3D-printed treads can be tweaked to adapt to weather and road conditions.
Sensor chips will also allow mechanics to review information regarding usage of each tire. But like all new technologies, VISION requires less human intervention due to its 3D-printed nature. Will this mean a massive drop in employment? Michelin certainly hopes not — and anyway, they have nearly a decade to think about it, as VISION is not yet consumer-ready.