Ever since the German inventor Karl Benz built Benz Patent-Motorwagen in the late 19th century, car industry evolved immensely and when we finally thought that there is nothing else to improve except build-quality and speed, came the Information Age and opened new possibilities that were until then reserved only for science fiction. Still, there is one part of the car that remained pretty much the same over this long and exciting period and those are the tyres. Yes, racing sports always pushed the envelope in this department, but conceptually, tyres always remained the same. Until now, at least. Let see some new ideas on the horizon that threaten to make tyre industry much more interesting.
Ohio-based manufacturer came out with two very pleasant surprises that can change the very purpose of tyres on this year’s Geneva International Motor Show. First one is the BHO3 that generates electricity by converting heat and motion as the tyre rolls. To do that BHO3 is lined with pattern of thermo/piezoelectric material and cooling system preventing it from overheating. This technology can vastly improve electric cars’ energy capacity and help their breakthrough into the mainstream. The other is Triple Tube, the tyre with, as the name suggests, three tubes located beneath the tread and internal air-pump. This internal air distribution system allows the tyre to automatically adjust to Eco/Safety (maximum inflation – reduced rolling resistance), Sporty (reduced inflation – adds air to the inboard tube, thus increasing the contact patch and providing more grip) and Wet Traction (maximized inflation in central tube – high aquaplaning resistance) positions based on road conditions.
Peak into the Hankook’s Backyard
Interesting ideas are brewing in South Korea too and Hankook Tire is also working on two great concepts. The first one is as ingenious as it’s obvious and those are airless tyres. What’s so great about this idea is that without air involved they can never go flat. This time, the bounce is provided by geometrical shapes of eco-friendly material the company is yet to reveal. As for now, iFlex tyres, as they are called, performed just as well as regular tyres at speeds up to 80mph, so we hope for the best. The other one is more the matter of wishful thinking than reality, but is interesting nevertheless. In a CGI animated video released in November 2014, South Korean manufacturer showcased three types of tyres that can literally transform adapting to whatever type of terrain and weather condition they are facing. Such technology is, obviously, far from being commercially available, but we are holding our fingers crossed.
Input from Other Manufacturers
We have to point out though that Hankook Tire is not the only company that plays with the idea of airless tyres. Bridgestone, for example, is teasing us for quite some time now with promises of tyres with minimal maintenance, increased durability and, of course, the ability to never go flat. What’s great about Bridgestone’s project is that they have already implemented their ideas in smaller versions of the wheel that we have an opportunity to see on golf carts. From the words of manufacturers, they are still trying to find a way how to eliminate debris trapping amongst spokes and how to distribute car weight evenly, but Bridgestone’s second generation of non-pneumatic tyres is firmly on the way to commercial availability. Still, although airless tyers are not hitting the highways yet, they are making their way off-road. Polaris’ military grade WV850 HO ATV abandons traditional inflatable tyres and goes for the non-pneumatic option that features flexible polymer honeycomb. Great proof that this concept is perfectly applicable is the fact that US military already uses these vehicles.
There is nothing left to say than we are hoping that all of these concepts will come to fruition in near future, especially the Goodyear’s BHO3 tyres. If increased energy capacity is all it needs to help electric cars to be seen on the future roads more often, we are 100% behind that idea.