The dream-tires would be made from biodegradable materials and last as long as the vehicle
The French tire-manufacturer Michelin recently unveiled an 3D-printed wheel concept that could be ideal for vehicles’ autonomous future. The company’s vision tire -predicted to enter into production by 2023- will be designed to be airless, 3D-printed and last virtually forever. Nowadays over 70% of tires produced globally are made from non-biodegradable materials, but these future tires will be made of bio-sourced and biodegradable materials (including natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses, and orange zest) and could be fully recyclable. They will also be equipped with RFID sensors to collect data and predict performance and function of the vehicle, in order to be adaptive to different conditions. Meaning that if your tire's tread is worn or your road conditions have changed (you're driving off-road or in rain, snow, heat, etc.), you can print the tread you need -or the one suggested by the embedded app- in a matter of minutes! “This concept vision is a dream for an ideal solution for the long-term,” said Terry Gettys, Michelin’s executive VP for research and development. “We’re confident you can replace a tire-and-wheel-combination with a unique structure, carry the load, provide good comfort and noise, and we’re very encouraged that can be the solution of the future.” However, he admits that the long-term challenges relates to printing the entire material structure from biodegradable materials and that will require much further research.
The concept of ‘air-free’ tires already exists though, with Michelin’s Tweel having emerged over a decade ago and currently being in use in small-frame, low-speed vehicles and appliances like golf carts and lawn mowers. In 2013, Bridgestone also unveiled an air-free concept for tiny, smart-car sized vehicles, while the company recently began testing airless bicycle tires.
Image source: Michelin