Hush-hush tyres

Date:21 May 2012 Tags:, ,

Those black rubber doughnuts connecting your car (or bike, for that matter) to the road are sometimes a lot more influential than we give them credit for. Of course, they’re a vital part of ensuring we have a safe, comfortable ride. But they are also important in ensuring a quiet ride – for us as well as those around us. And their effect on fuel economy is unquestioned.

At the Geneva Motor Show this year, Goodyear showed some tech concepts that could soon be coming to a road – or a planet – near you.

As the whine of electric motors supersedes the clatter of diesel engines in noisy inner cities, engineers from Goodyear’s Innovation Centre in Luxembourg are looking at ways to drop the noise floor even lower through tyre technology.

The EU’s CityHush project is proposing noise-limited quiet zones (Q-Zones) in five cities where only electric vehicles will be allowed. It’s expected that overall noise levels will drop by about 15 dB, or even more around parks.

How can tyre makers help? Road noise isn’t just about the road surface. It is also dependent on tyre dimensions, materials and construction and tread pattern. These parameters affect both the volume and the frequency spectrum of road noise. And it’s these that were juggled to produce a quiet concept tyre for EVs shown at Geneva (right).

Goodyear also exhibited Air Maintenance Technology (top right), which keeps tyres optimally inflated without external pumps, electronics or driver intervention. The company says research has shown that underinflated tyres worsen fuel economy by between 2,5 and 3,3 percent.

The Spring Tyre is engineered to withstand the harshest environments on the Moon, says Goodyear, and possibly the toughest places on Earth. (We can think of a few roads that could test that confidence.)

Developed in conjunction with Nasa, the Spring Tyre is an advance on the wire mesh tyre previously used on planetary rovers, also co-designed by Goodyear. The new design has 800 load-bearing springs and is able to carry heavy vehicles.

Its spring design contours to any surface for maximum traction. It’s highly efficient, because all the energy used to deform the tyre is returned when the springs rebound. Because of that, it won’t generate heat like a pneumatic tyre would, the company says.

Naturally, because no inflation is involved, the Spring Tyre simply shrugs off pothole impacts. At the same time, its combination of flexibility and stiffness provides a plush ride.

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