Unlike the car or motorbike industry, which have a wide array of competitors across all markets, the tire dealers industry has a low level of market share concentration, with the four largest companies (Monro Inc., Sumitomo Corporation, the Reinalt-Thomas Corporation, and Mavis Discount Tire Inc) accounting for around 25% of the industry share. The list of major manufacturers may be small, but each owns various brands, with both affordable and premium tires being marketed at different target markets. In order to stay at the top of their game, these and other marques are working on innovations that are enabling tires to perform their four main functions (gripping, maintaining vehicle control, supporting the vehicle weight and acting as a shock absorber) optimally. Below are just a few innovations making big waves in research and development.
The one negative thing about tires is how much they cost. The answer depends a little on the country they are sold in A premium tire costs between $250 and $500, while in Europe, you can expect to pay a little less (sometimes as little as half). Drivers are sometimes tempted to buy cheaper brands, though it is always better to save money in other ways – for instance, by buying in bulk or during special sales like Good Friday. Artificial Intelligence could help significantly cut down on tire costs. Tires like Goodyear’s Eagle 360 have special sensors that detect surface changes on the road and the appearance of snow, rain, and other elements that can make a car lose stability. These sensors ‘instruct’ the tire to change its shape and texture as required to avoid accidents and maintain its stability for longer. In the long run, this type of tire will be longer-lasting and more efficient than current products.
Tires that Make Energy
Goodyear has unveiled a concept tire called BHO3, with a futuristic design and the potential to generate electricity for electric cars by converting the friction heat from the road into energy. These tires can collect heat not only when they are moving but also when they are completely still. Imagine parking in a sunny spot, going for a meal, and driving off with a bit more energy than when you headed into the restaurant.
Tires that Tell You When It’s Time to Change Them
A German group of specialists working at Continental is currently experimenting on combining rubber and printed electronics, which will help carks know when it is time to change tires without the need for manual measurement and inspection. Their project, called sensIC, will run for three years. At the end of this time, teams will have to present a demonstrator tire to see how effective it is. Companies are also considering the use of printed electronics for a plethora of different uses – including air springs and hoses.
It’s an exciting time for tire innovations, with top companies working hard to improve resilience but also looking to new functions to improve road safety and energy savings. Goodyear, for instance, is working to bring tires that generate electricity to the EV market, while Continental is hoping to successfully combine rubber and printed electronics to glean vital information about the state and quality of tires at any given time.