The thunk-whumma-whumpa-whuppa sound of a tire puncturing and losing pressure at freeway speeds is unmistakable. However, if Goodyear has its way humanity might not have to endure the filthy, sweaty, swear-inducing process of swapping rubber on the shoulder of American roads ever again.
This week, Goodyear introduced its latest “stretch concept” tire, the ReCharge, which theoretically never needs replacing or even rotating because it can replace worn treads from the inside.
The idea is essentially the same as making PlayDoh spaghetti. However, instead of squishing semi-edible “dough” through a child-size pasta press, ReCharge tires extrude a high-tech compound of renewable materials including dandelion rubber and synthetic spider silk. The mixture is fed through a series of fine pipes out to the surface of the wheel where they dry, cure and set into brand new, fully-functional treads.
These offer a more environmentally responsible alternative to the standard tire composition of today, which requires the addition of either carbon black or silica to shore up the structural capabilities of petroleum rubber. In this case, the synthetic spider silk can help augment the natural properties of dandelion rubber to reduce wear and extend the functional life of the tire.
What’s more, this concept tire is reportedly structurally designed so that it doesn’t need to be pressurized so it’ll never go flat. Instead of relying on air pressure, the replacement tread solution would be stored in replaceable canisters within the wheel hub.
Goodyear’s innovation is definitely incredible, but it will certainly take some years before this new tire system hits the market. When it does though, we’ll be celebrating the end of flat tires.