An essential contributor to automobile performance, the humble wheel is increasingly a focus for innovation with parts manufacturers competing to create greener and smarter designs. In the future, we will likely see larger wheels made from recycled materials that are equipped with sensors for a safer and more efficient driving experience.
Wheels that offer more range
In 2019, Citroën caused a sensation with the presentation of its 19_19 concept, which was equipped with extra-large 30-inch wheels developed in partnership with Goodyear. With extra-long tire footprints and a reduced surface area in contact with the road, the new wheels helped to boost the range of the electric vehicle. At the same time, they made it more comfortable, with special treading to minimize noise. Two features that could be adapted to wheels for more mainstream models.
Optimized wheel alignment
Better management of tire contact with the road is key to reducing tire wear and boosting fuel efficiency. With this in mind Australian start-up Doftek has developed the world's first active wheel alignment system (AWAS), which can adjust alignment parameters to different driving conditions in real time. According to Doftek, the new system reduces rolling resistance by ten percent, keeps tire temperatures to a minimum, and eliminates uneven wear. In the near future AWAS could well become a feature of high-end gasoline and electric models.
Among tire manufacturers, Goodyear stands out as one of the most innovative. In 2018, the multinational presented "Oxygene," a moss-filled concept tire that emits oxygen and generates electricity to power its own on-board sensors. Going even further Oxygene also made use of Li-Fi (a communications system that transmits information with light) to interact with infrastructure and pedestrians. More recently, Goodyear tested yet another tire equipped with multiple sensors that provide maintenance data. The idea of this latest prototype is to relay this information so that it will be made available to drivers in future automobile designs.