The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company just unveiled a new concept tire that could stand the economics of the electric vehicle market on its head. Instead of pumping extra bucks into a souped up battery to get longer EV range, the idea is to generate extra electricity on-the-go from your tires.
Most likely, you’d end up spending a lot more money on those fancy electricity-generating tires, which would cancel out some of your EV battery savings, but instead of getting all Debbie Downer about it, let’s take a look at Goodyear’s concept.
Putting Tires To Work For Longer EV Range
The idea of harvesting electricity from the motion of a car is not a new one. Along with our sister site Gas2.org, we’ve covered a few approaches based on embedding kinetic energy devices in roadways, but that approach leads you to a stationary battery.
The tricky thing about putting the car’s motion directly to work as an EV range extender is figuring out how to do it without significantly reducing the efficiency of your forward motion, which after all is the reason you’re in the car to begin with.
Google patented a tire-based approach back in 2001 that resolves the problem by enclosing a magnet within the tire. A coil attached to the magnet interacts with the inside of the tire. When you’re rolling down the road, the tire changes its shape, and that deflection is picked up by the coil. The motion between the coil and the magnet generates electricity.
Clever Google! But, it looks like Goodyear’s concept is more advanced. It’s partly based on piezoelectricity, which refers to the ability of certain materials to generate electricity when exposed to stress.
If you’ve used a push-button grill starter or cigarette lighter, or if you tell time with a quartz watch, you’re doing piezoelectricity. Some inkjet printers also use the piezoelectric effect in reverse, changing the shape of a material by applying a small jolt of electricity.
Lead would be the material of choice for scaling up to larger uses, but that presents obvious problems, so researchers have been hunting for non-toxic substitutes.
Back in 2009, for example, the folks over at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory partnered with a team from UC–Berkeley to announce a lead-free piezoelectric material based on bismuth ferrite, a material composed of crystal planes.
With a non-toxic material in hand you can do all sorts of things. Over at the UK’s University of Bolton, they’re working on a piezoelectric fiber integrated with a solar energy harvesting capability.
Goodyear’s press materials for the new EV range concept tire were thin on details, but from what we gather, the new “BH03” combines the piezoelectric effect with thermal energy to generate electricity in a couple of different ways.
While you’re on the go, the tire flexes and generates heat, which is captured and sent to the battery in the form of electricity.
At rest, the “ultra-black” tire absorbs sunlight, and that energy is also harvested and converted to electricity.
No word yet on what magic materials have gone into the tire, but if you’d like a few more details, you can catch a video on prnewswire.com (no YouTube link, for whatever reason).
There’s no narration and just a few captions, so as a service to our readers, here’s the rundown:
[The tire] produces electrical energy through:
Thermoelectric material which transforms heat (generated by the ultra black texture in static condition and by the rolling tire in dynamic) into electrical energy.
Piezoelectric material which transforms pressure due to structure deformation into electrical energy.
To ice the EV range cake, Goodyear also notes that the “self-supporting structure” of the tire would enable it to bear up even when punctured, so you could keep driving for 80 kilometers at a nice clip of 80 km/hour.
Nice concept, right? Drop us a note in the comment thread and let us know what you think.
Image Credit (screenshot): Courtesy of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
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