What No One Told You about New Tires

August 1st, 2015

Tires in Abbottstown, PA

Yes, tires are still round, black and filled with air…but there’s been a lot of progress in tire technology in the last 25 years, and still more on the way:

  • Tread compounds: By the year 2025, vehicle manufacturers will have to comply with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards of 54.5 mpg. While there are many ways of meeting that goal, tires are an important part of the picture. Tire engineers are using new tread compounds to lower rolling resistance and help squeeze out a couple of MPGs of fuel economy. While cuts in rolling resistance are difficult to attain, a 5 percent drop in rolling resistance translates to a 1 percent gain in fuel economy. Also, nanotechnology and infusions of silica and sunflower oil are being added to tread formulations to keep them pliable at low temperatures.
  • Tread designs: Goodyear’s Assurance TripleTred All-Season features sipes in the tread that get wider as the tire wears down, along with multiple sectors of tread for different road and weather conditions (and a different tread compound for each sector). Michelin’s Premier A/S is molded with grooves that actually widen as the tread wears down, enhancing the tire’s ability to evacuate water. Tests show that worn Premier A/S tires actually outperform many brand-new tires.
  • No more spares: Many new vehicles are doing away with the familiar old spare tire altogether. Instead, they are coming from the factory with run-flat tires that handle and ride better than old run-flat designs. Others are equipped with flat sealant products and a small air compressor to reinflate the tire and get you back on your way again. The idea, of course, is a savings in weight and space…but that won’t do much good in case of a tire that’s not only flat, but failed and shredded to the point of being destroyed.
  • Airless tires: Michelin’s “Tweel” is already in use on some industrial and military vehicles; rather than a conventional sidewall, the vehicle’s weight is supported on a complex honeycomb pattern of plastic spokes. Bridgestone’s airless tire design is adapted for passenger use, with a fine honeycomb-style structure of thermoplastic resin, which the tire maker says is 100 percent recyclable. The Bridgestone tire is still far from market phase, though – one problem lies in determining a way to prevent small objects from getting lodged in the spokes.
  • Self-inflating tires: Czech company Coda Development has introduced a self-inflating tire with a valve that’s designed to “inhale” outside air and take it into the tire. Once the tire reaches its proper inflation level, the valve cuts off the intake of air and retains the air inside the tire.
  • Polyurethane tires: Tires molded from solid polyurethane plastic can exceed a rubber tire’s service life by 300 percent, with a weight that’s equal to or less than a conventional tire. Some polyurethane tire designs might feature a network of hundreds of thousands of microscopic air cells inside a tough polyurethane shell, making punctures irrelevant and flat tires near impossible. Polyurethane tires can also be recycled into uses such as doormats, bed liners, racetrack surfaces and hundreds of other applications.

When Henry Ford was designing the first-ever V8 engine for the company, his engineers told him that it was flatly impossible to cast an 8-cylinder block with the technology of the time. Ford’s response: “Produce it anyway.” The same spirit is alive today in tire technology, with innovations that would have been thought impossible only a few years ago.

While it may be a few years before you can buy any of these tire designs, we thought you might be interested in knowing what’s happening and what may lie just down the road in the tire industry. Need a set of tires or wheels for your ride? Give us a call at L & M Tire & Wheel and let us set you up!   

  Posted in: Tire 101