Over the years, there have been new innovations in cars and automotive components that make traveling better for a lot of reasons. Tires are especially important, since without them, cars (and most vehicles) would have an incredibly hard time getting around. The design for the next generation of tires seems to be airless, much like the Michelin Visionary Concept, or even the Tweel Airless Tire.
Coined as the “Tweel,” in 2005, Michelin’s “reinvention” of the wheel is sort of a combination of both a tire and a wheel, as it doesn’t have the same assembly as a traditional wheel hub. This has a solid inner hub that mounts to the axle, surrounded by polyurethane spokes arrayed in a pattern of wedges. The spokes have a band stretched across them, forming the outer edge of the tire, which comes into contact with the road. It’s reminiscent of a larger, stronger, futuristic bike tire.
They can have different treads and spoke arrangements depending on conditions for their use, but their current use is primarily for short range vehicles like golf carts, or construction equipment and the like. On a car, they don’t fare well against fast/long distances, as vibration and unpleasantly loud noises are produced. Also, with the current tire manufacturing infrastructure, it’s just impractical to produce on a mass scale the same way pneumatic (traditional) tires are.
While the Tweel may be not be without it’s kinks, it’s still an interesting and totally viable transition from the traditional tires we’ve all known for years. Aside from this, we have been introduced to the Michelin Visionary Concept tire, an organic, airless, “rechargeable,” 3D-printed tire that is theoretically much better and environmentally efficient than what is available for vehicles now. A durable tire that can simply have new tread designs printed out for a given condition whenever needed definitely sounds like something most people would benefit from. The biggest challenge something like this would face however, would be the infrastructure issue. Just as there was quite a time before any significant amount of electric car charging station were put in place for drivers, the same would happen tire printing stations. It’s a stretch of an idea at that.
For both kinds of revolutionary tire, there would need to be troubleshooting and much more vetting in order to get them on cars as a normal and common option. Not only that, but the manufacturing infrastructure would need to be made in order to support them. It would be about a good 10 years or more before we could see any real move away from the traditional tires we know today. It could very well change the way people drive and spend for car maintenance, but as of now, it’s just a very possible dream.