Technology in pill form is one of the longest enduring science fiction tropes, so it was only a matter of time before pill-based features entered the dreamy world of automotive concepts. Goodyear took the plunge into this futuristic form automotive tech this week with its reCharge concept, a tire that can be “personalized” or replenished with just a pop of a pill.
With a normal tire, once the tread is worn out, that’s it for the tire; to the junkyard or recycling center it goes. This is of course extremely wasteful. It takes several gallons of petroleum to produce a single tire and we are quickly learning that tires are one of the worst polluters when it comes to microplastics in our waterways. According to the National Resources Defense Council, American tires alone produce two tons of microplastics every year. Those microplastics then enter the food chain, which isn’t good for anyone. But we still have to drive right?
Enter the reCharge:
Goodyear says in its press release this concept focuses on “personalize, sustainable, and hassle free mobility.” At the core of the reCharge is a “pill” which is more like a cartridge, which contains a biodegradable compound based on one of the toughest substances in nature—spider silk. Different cartridges could produce different tires. Changing to your winter rubber would be as easy as sliding one of these fluid filled cartridges into the center of each of your wheels.
Goodyear isn’t super clear on how the fluid makes a durable tread useful for driving, but it’s a fantasy technology that won’t ever see the light of day, so little details like how it actually works can be glossed over.
The tread is supported by a lightweight non-pneumatic frame, meaning the tire also can’t go flat.
Goodyear also gave some language in its press materials about how the tire uses AI, but it should surprise no one to say that it’s more buzzwords than anything else.
Every few years, Goodyear likes to wow us with another wacky tire concept, and the concepts just keep getting bolder. In 2014, the company’s concept was pretty small potatoes; a giant tire with cleavage for SUVs. Goodyear’s potatoes grew, however, in 2015, when the company reveal the BHO3 concept, which it said would convert the stresses a tire endures into electricity. Definitely a dream technology, but nothing too outside the realm of possibility. Then in 2018, it revealed a tweel called Oxygene, a puncture-less tire with moss growing in the center, presumably for elven or gnome vehicles, though Goodyear said Oxygene was meant to bring more oxygen (get it?) to mega-cities.
The reCharge concept, however, is definitely my favorite, probably because I’m a huge sci-fi nerd. We may not be at the point of taking our meals or whole college courses in pill form, but we might just be a little closer to driving around on pill-based tires. Like Goodyear’s previous concepts, I’m sure such the reCharge would be mind-bendingly expensive if built today, and maybe even impossible with where technology is currently. But that’s the fun of both sci-fi and concepts like these—the wonder at what could be.