Goodyear concept tiresEnlarge Photo
It's common for automakers to preview new styling or technology elements with concept cars, but now tire companies are doing the same with their wares.
Concept tires may not have the stage presence of concept cars, but they can show ways in which tires could potentially evolve into more than just hunks of rubber.
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At the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, Goodyear unveiled a pair of new concept tires--both of which should be of particular interest to drivers of green cars.
The first concept features the innocuous-sounding name BHO3, and the more interesting ability to generate electricity.
Goodyear BH03 concept tireEnlarge Photo
Goodyear says the BHO3 can harness heat created by flexing under normal driving conditions, increasing the efficiency of electrified vehicles.
The obvious benefit here would be providing an additional source of electricity, almost like the way regenerative braking is currently used in electric cars and hybrids.
The second Goodyear concept tire is called the Triple Tube, after the three internal tubes that allow it to change shape depending on conditions.
The Tubes are located beneath the tread in the center of the tire, and at the inboard and outboard shoulders. A pump inflates or deflates individual tubes, allowing the tire to morph into three different configurations.
In "Eco/Safety" mode, all three tubes are fully inflated to decrease rolling resistance. There's also a "Wet Traction" mode in which only the center tube is inflated, and a "Sporty" mode that pumps up the inboard tube to increase the contact patch and provide more grip.
Goodyear Triple Tube concept tireEnlarge Photo
This design could prove useful in green cars that also claim to be sporty, because while today's electronics can easily change a powertrain's behavior, it's hard to change the characteristics of tires.
Very low-rolling resistance tires offer greater efficiency, but at the cost of the grip needed for solid handling. The problem is reversed with more aggressive performance tires.
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That's all theoretical, though, because neither of these tires is intended for mass production.
Goodyear showed off the BHO3 and Triple Tube to demonstrate its engineering capabilities, and ways tires could potentially become more integrated with overall vehicle designs.