Michelin wants to reinvent the wheel – and the tire too – via the Vision concept the company introduced at its Movin’On conference in Montreal this week. The one-piece wheel-and-tire combo is “airless, connected, rechargeable, customizable and organic,” according to Michelin.
Since you’re probably wondering about the organic part, let’s get that out of the way first. To minimize its environmental impact, the concept tire is made from bio-sourced and biodegradable materials, including natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses and orange zest.
The tread design is optimized to reduce its depth, which in turn reduces its thickness and make it more efficient material-wise. Since the Vision concept is airless it will never blowout or explode, and it uses an interior architecture to support the vehicle while also providing comfort and safety, according to Michelin. “It’s inspired by nature with a very light, efficient structure,” Michelin’s executive vice president of R&D, Terry Gettys, told assembled media at the Movin’On conference.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of the Vision concept is that it “recharges,” as Michelin describes the ability of the tread to be changed to adapt to various road conditions, climates and driving styles. A video shown at the Vision concept’s unveiling in Montreal this week envisioned a scenario in which a driver makes a pit stop at a 3D printing station on the way to the mountains to apply a winter tread to the tires.
The Vision concept is also equipped with sensors that provide real-time information about its condition, while a mobile application allows drivers to set an appointment with a 3D printing station to change the tire’s tread depending on road conditions and driving needs.
Don’t get rid of those snow tires just yet – and don’t expect to see the Vision concept at your local tire store anytime soon. Gettys said it will be at least 10 years before the tire is brought to market.
“It’s a long-term concept which brings together our vision of all the elements of sustainable mobility,” Gettys noted. But he added that “it’s a very realistic dream. All the components are current research initiatives at Michelin.”
Originally published Forbes.com