Honeycomb tires are a promising prototype in the world of green technology. They offer reliability, durability and better gas mileage to the consumer while using fewer resources in production. The tires also have a lower environmental impact when they reach end of their useful life.
While a honeycomb tire looks like a standard tire, structural examination reveals it’s tread is made up of a pattern of spokes. The spokes are curved, which makes them pliable and “soft” like a regular tire. However, the spokes are made of technologically advanced plastics that are super-strong and lightweight. This means that the honeycomb tire is more durable, more environmentally-friendly, and safer than the current steel-belted rubber tire.
Many minds in the fields of tire design, materials science, and physics came together to produce the very first honeycomb tire prototype. The technology stems from the military’s need for tires that can withstand bombs and gunfire better than the existing tires, which are said to be the weak point in the modern armored vehicle. As part of the honeycomb tire design process, factors such as likely road surfaces, tire temperatures (both ambient and temperatures stemming from friction), weight concerns, speed and stability at speed were all considered. After careful analysis and design, the honeycomb design was determined to be the best possible option.
However, the private sector is just as interested in honeycomb tires as the military. First, because the honeycomb tire structure is made almost entirely from plastics, it’s easily recycled. This means the honeycomb tire of the future isn’t going to sit in some landfill when it’s no longer useful.
Next, honeycomb tires may also prove to be safer than current tires, as they are not reliant on air pressure to maintain their shape and function. This means that they’re much more resistant to the common mishaps that ruin standard tires, from potholes and nails to crash situations. Obviously, many consumers would be willing to pay for this feature.
Finally, the durability of a honeycomb tire would far exceed that of the typical steel-belted rubber tire, which need replacement more often than most consumers realize. This means that consumers might only have to buy one set of tires every decade. Obviously, consumers would be willing to pay for this too.
Michelin is currently testing honeycomb tires designed for smaller vehicle types such as construction equipment, wheelchairs and scooters, with a larger version currently being developed for military Humvee use. Both prototypes promise stability when traveling over rough terrain and the Humvee tire can keep going with up to 30 percent damage to its cells. There are still issues with heat and vibration that need to be worked out, but the likelihood is that Humvees and other military vehicles will be rolling on honeycomb tires in the next 5 years (or sooner).
As development continues, consumers will likely see honeycomb tire technology on new vehicles – probably luxury vehicles at first, followed by more mainstream autos.
Honeycomb tires are a very exciting development in green technology, and they promise a safer future free of blowouts or being inconvenienced by a flat tire. They do require more work and testing as far as design and affordability are concerned, but they’re coming…and they promise to change the world (at least a little bit).
Author Jason Lancaster writes about automotive news and technology while working with Toyota Parts Blog, a website with Toyota part reviews and accessory news.