Eliminating vehicle exhaust fumes will go a very long way to providing us with cleaner air to breathe but, even in the automotive world, there is still more that can be done.
Powering our cars in a more environmentally friendly way doesn’t help with the pollution caused by their manufacture and subsequent disposal; especially when you consider how many separate parts make up a vehicle.
One of the most resource-hungry components is the tire, which is why Michelin has been working on an upgraded version.
Known as the VISION, it’s 3D-printed from a cocktail of organic biodegradable materials that includes orange zest, bamboo, wood, and natural rubber.
As an airless all-in-one design, there’s no need for a separate rubber inner tube or even a metal wheel – components that cause even more pollution when made and discarded.
So instead of being dismantled and having the different parts taken to different processing plants, the VISION can be recycled as a single unit.
If left to its own devices, it will even decompose naturally with no harm done to the environment.
However, this would appear to be a last resort for the VISION tires.
As solid objects with a thin layer of tread around the outside that can be easily renewed whenever it becomes worn, the tires are designed to last far longer than our current ones.
As Terry Gettys, Michelin’s global head of R&D told Fast Company, “The tread compound, the outer layer, is very thin and designed to wear out and be replaced so you can tune it to your needs.”
The Michelin man also talked of a network of service stations that can 3D print new layers of treads that match the local new conditions – be they meteorological or geographical.
Information gathered from a computer chip in the VISION will even notify the driver when they need fixing up.
The web-like structure of the VISION is still a prototype and Gettys advised that it could be another decade or two before we see the concept used on our shiny new electric cars.
It is, however, another important step towards a greener future for transport.
Anywhere between 15 to 38 liters of petroleum said to be required to produce today’s tires, which often find their way to landfills where they decompose and release toxins into the ground just years later.
The VISION, or whatever eventually emerges from the concept, will go a very long way in making the cars of tomorrow even cleaner.
h/t Fast Company | Images from Michelin