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Tires Could Help Power Your Car

Goodyear wants to capture the wasted energy where the rubber meets the road

2 min read
Tires Could Help Power Your Car

Goodyear is developing a concept tire that could someday allow vehicles to run on electricity generated when the rubber meets the road.

In many hybrid and electric vehicles, some energy is already provided from the wheels via regenerative breaking, which temporarily turns the electric motor used to drive the car into a generator: the force required to turn the generator helps slow the car down, friction brakes do the rest.  

But Goodyear is interested in producing energy directly from the tires, harvesting their heat energy with its BHO3 concept tire. According to Goodyear, while the car is sitting idle, the BHO3 tires would start to warm as sunlight hits the tires and the ground beneath. (The tire will be given an ultra black coat for maximum absorption of light and heat.) The heat would be transferred to the car through thermoelectric materials just under the tire’s surface that can generate voltage as the material flexes in response to temperature changes.

As the car moves, the thermoelectric materials in the tire can also capture the energy from the heat and friction as it rolls over the pavement during normal driving conditions. Additionally, as the tire rolls over different surfaces, it will deform in different ways, and these changes can also be turned into electrical energy by piezoelectric materials. Goodyear recently showcased the BHO3 at the 85th Geneva International Motor Show.

“These concept tires reimagine the role that tires may play in the future,” Joe Zekoski, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer, said in a statement. Of course, the tire is just a glimmer in Goodyear’s eye at the moment. The company did not specify what type of piezoelectric material might be used. It also alluded to a cooling system in the tire, but did not say how the cooling system would be balanced with the heat generation of the ultra black surface.

Nor did Goodyear offer estimates of how much electricity could be generated or how much the tires might cost if they ever become a reality. The company did note that that even if the tires were punctured, they could be driven for 80 kilometers at 80 kilometers per hour.

At the show, Goodyear also displayed another concept tire with triple tubing that could adjust the air between the chambers based on road conditions.

Car manufacturers are looking at range of different technologies to help power the growing ranks of hybrid and electric vehicles. Last year, Ford debuted a concept car with sun-tracking technology on the roof.

The Conversation (0)

Self-Driving Cars Work Better With Smart Roads

Intelligent infrastructure makes autonomous driving safer and less expensive

9 min read
A photograph shows a single car headed toward the viewer on the rightmost lane of a three-lane road that is bounded by grassy parkways, one side of which is planted with trees. In the foreground a black vertical pole is topped by a crossbeam bearing various instruments. 

This test unit, in a suburb of Shanghai, detects and tracks traffic merging from a side road onto a major road, using a camera, a lidar, a radar, a communication unit, and a computer.

Shaoshan Liu

Enormous efforts have been made in the past two decades to create a car that can use sensors and artificial intelligence to model its environment and plot a safe driving path. Yet even today the technology works well only in areas like campuses, which have limited roads to map and minimal traffic to master. It still can’t manage busy, unfamiliar, or unpredictable roads. For now, at least, there is only so much sensory power and intelligence that can go into a car.

To solve this problem, we must turn it around: We must put more of the smarts into the infrastructure—we must make the road smart.

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