The company is developing a tire that generates current by simply rolling.
As amazing as electric vehicles can be, and they are great, their range remains their limitation. Regenerative braking is a method that captures heat energy and returns it to the battery. Engineers have also considered other methods of capturing energy, such as the rebound or compression of shock absorbers. Goodyear sees a way to get a little more juice out of the tires.
Like all tire companies, Goodyear has invested a lot of money and time developing tires that have lower rolling resistance. This helps to increase the fuel economy and range of electric cars. Goodyear engineers wondered if the tires could generate electricity.
Two ways to capture energy are the idea behind BH-03. Goodyear believes it can harness piezoelectricity. This is the electric charge that builds up when certain materials are squeezed or pressed. Xavier Fraipont is director of consumer tire technology. This means that tires are continually being deformed when they spin. Piezoelectric materials, which include some ceramics, quartz, and a few types of salt, are used in electric cigarette lighters, electric guitar picks, and in the fuses in rocket propelled grenades.
“Now, how do we combine them with other materials to get the properties piezoelectric and some elasticity? This will always be required with tires.” Fraipont said. “That’s where the moment is.”
Another way to create electricity is through thermoelectricity. This converts variations in temperature into electrical voltage. Tires generate heat, no matter if they are in the sun or on the road. Goodyear plans to make thermoelectric materials, such as bismuth telluride or tin selenide, to produce electricity from the temperature difference between the coolest and hottest parts of rubber. The challenge here is to incorporate those materials without sacrificing durability and elasticity.
The next step after the engineers have figured out how to use a tire for electricity generation is to find the best location to put it. It could be used to power sensors within tires that send temperature and pressure information to the car’s computer, improving performance and overall tire pressure. Fraipont suggests that engineers use a connection from the tire to connect to the battery to send energy. They could also transfer energy using an induction current.
This is all still theoretical. Engineers need to decide what the best materials would be, how efficient they would generate power, how they could be added to tires, and how much weight. There are many complications, so it is unlikely that the BH03 concept will ever make it to market. It’s likely it will take 10 to 15 more years before it happens, and it may look very different than what we have seen.
The idea that tires could be a bit more energetic would cause us to give up burnouts in appreciation. Well, maybe.