CARS.COM — Sustainability has been a buzzword for cars, with several of the more eco-minded models offering features like bio-plastics and manufacturing processes with less environmental impact in mind. Michelin is looking to extend this concept to the tires that the car drives on as well, and it has given us a peek at its newest concept tire: the Vision.
Instead of being filled with air, the Vision is constructed out of bio-materials that are fully biodegradable. The interior of the tire is instead designed with an architecture that resembles alveoli (the small air sacs in the human lung), which Michelin said provides enough strength to support the structure of the tire.
The tire is denser toward the center for strength, while the outside has less structural density, which allows for some flexibility. Michelin also says that by removing pressurized air from the equation, the tire will not have to worry about explosions or blowouts on the road.
Michelin has also incorporated 3-D printing technology, which applies the rubber tread to the outside of the tire. Using this process, the tread and design can be adapted to the needs of the driver — for example, if the car will be driven in snow often, a different tread can be applied than for a driver who lives in a warmer climate and wants more on-road grip.
This design also allows the tire to be recharged. As the rubber wears off, more can be added. And if the car will be driven in different environments, the tread pattern can be changed to better suit conditions, which adds to safety. And the tire will also be a "connected" tire, loaded with sensors so it can give the driver updates on its condition through a mobile app.
These tires are still fully in concept mode; we haven't even seen one mocked up yet. But there is great potential here, and as someone who likes to head up into the mountains during the winter, not having to own a second set of wheels and tires sounds pretty good to me.