How does never replacing tyres again sound?

By topgear, 11 March 2020

It’s that moment in nearly every properly good horror movie. The malevolent marauder, very much killed to death by the fatal fall / rising water / crushing weight / coupe de grace / spectacular explosion, finds a way to overcome such paltry impediments as certain and complete destruction and rises like a phoenix, ready to dole out another world of pain.

Surely, this is what has inspired engineers and chemists over at Goodyear, who have come up with a tyre that regenerates the rubber that abrades during its life. So, it’s like that bit in Stephen King’s Christine, except it’s limited to the tyres, and not the entirety of a Plymouth Fury.

Well, it’s either our flimsy horror movie analogy, or it’s something to do with the billion or so tyres that are scrapped every year. And this, as you’ve possibly already concluded, is a touch on the wasteful side.

The answer, then? Well, a special tyre that extrudes a ‘biodegradable tread compound’ – someone’s been reading about ocean plastics – that constantly regenerates the tread surface of the tyre.

Within the tyre is a small pod of liquid tread compound that feeds through special tubes to the tread surface and hardens on exposure to the air. As well as being biodegradable, the compound apparently uses material that’s “inspired by one of the toughest natural materials in the world: spider silk”.

So, how does one change a tyre in the future? Simple: replace the pod in the centre of the tyre for a new one, with a fresh supply of this liquid tread compound. Need winter tyres? Grab a winter pod. Need super-sticky summer rubber? Grab that pod, my lad. Need to do some drag racing? Head to Santa Pod.

By now, you probably have three big questions: a) what if I get a puncture, b) can I expect to see these on road cars, and c) isn’t Goodyear’s business model kind of based on selling lots of tyres? And these are damn fine questions to be asking. 

First: you won’t get punctures, because, in Goodyear’s conception at least, the ReCharge won’t be pneumatic, rather a self-supporting structure that may or may not closely resemble another tyre manufacturer’s idea about the future of tyres.

Secondly: you might see a version of this, and it might be the last you ever hear of it. Yeah, we know; it’s a bigger copout than the end of Law Abiding Citizen – seriously, that’s how you chose to end it? – but that’s the way pie-in-the-sky concepts work. Sometimes they take off and claim that pie. Sometimes… well, there’s always a Sci-Fi movie.

And finally, yes. That’s roughly how we saw a tyre business remaining financially solvent. Although, if the manufacturing costs go down and the initial price is built into the purchase price of the car, then all Goodyear has to do is make that liquid tyre compound… and blimps.