I was looking at the tyres on a serious sportscar the other day and could hardly believe how low-profile they were: probably no more in depth than 30mm from road to rim. The reason for such shallow tyres is probably mostly to achieve high lateral stiffness…if you’re cornering hard, you don’t want the hub to move radially outwards, whilst the rubbery bit stays put on the tarmac. The lower the tyres, the lower the body of the vehicle can be and that is usually good from an aerodynamic resistance point of view. Also, I guess that, being stiffer, shallow tyres give a driver more ‘feedback’ about the condition of the road -not something that is appreciated by drivers of family saloons on rutted rural roads.
I know that tyre research is a multimillion dollar business, but that doesn’t stop me leaping in and making naive suggestions, of course. Today’s invention is therefore a new tyre design, based on the oldest tyre design: that of the bicycle.
Another way to get high stiffness, feedback and low form drag would be to create wheels which were essentially several bicycle wheels side by side on the same axis. These would have the added advantage of greater resistance to puncturing…one or two tyres could burst on each wheel without the vehicle having to galumph to an immediate halt. It would be necessary to have the tyres spaced axially a little apart in order to limit wall-to-wall contact with each other.
I reckon it would also be possible to make use of a lot of technology from competitive cycling to design car wheels that would be significantly lighter than even racing alloys. A combination of carbon fibre spokes and solid wheels could be used, perhaps, and it would be interesting to experiment with a range of different inflation pressures across the tyres of one wheel.