While we are now used to seeing sensor-enabled tires that take them beyond a passive “rolling” role, no one has yet made a concerted effort to harvest kinetic energy from what could be an abundant source of heat and electricity for an individual vehicle. EVs and hybrids, of course, harvest braking energy from tire momentum, but this is an externally imposed mechanical action.
Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s R&D group this past year introduced a concept tire that if pursued (this being the operative phrase, and we hope they do) could create a major new electricity source from tires in both static and dynamic mode. In other words, while you are parked, or while you are driving. For EVs, such a solution could greatly relieve “range” anxiety for those concerned about battery life over longer distances.
The concept tire, named “BHO3”, and shown at the Geneva Auto Show last year, offers the possibility of charging the batteries by absorbing sunlight and asphalt heat when parked, by heat from friction as the car begins moving, and by harvesting heat from the deformation of the tire as it flexes when the car is travelling.
“These concept tires reimagine the role that tires may play in the future,” said Joe Zekoski, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer. “We envision a future in which our products become more integrated with the vehicle and the consumer, more environmentally friendly and more versatile.”
The tires, which have a self-supporting structure if punctured, would be manufactured using a heat absorbing tread with a unique texture that maximizes exposure. It also contains a structural cooling system. In addition, the radial belt contains a mesh of thermo/piezoelectric material that can capture heat and transform it into electricity.
When the car is parked, the tire treads collect heat from solar energy, which is transformed into electricity by the piezoelectric mesh. As the car begins moving, resistance on the tires increases, causing friction and additional heat that can be converted. And finally, when the car is in full motion, the heat generated by the flexing motion and deformation of the tire is also translated into electricity by the piezoelectric mesh.
As a concept, the tire offers a range of possibilities, as well as hurdles in commercialization and volume production. While no data on efficiency is available, we hope that Goodyear and perhaps others pursue this technology and the associated challenges and bring it to market quickly.