But way before any of these even came to light, there was one truly innovative technology that was already available for decades: run-flat tires. These are tires that can be driven on even after they get punctured, allowing motorists to move to a safe location or to a nearby shop in the event of an emergency. These tires are extremely handy, so much so that some carmakers, mostly European, make these types of tires standard in brand-new vehicles.
The biggest issue with run-flat tires is their cost. In our country where a vulcanizing shop is just a few blocks away from anything, people just opted for regular tires if they could.
Now, even if it seems that the tires of the future are right around the corner, it doesn’t look like these good, old run-flat tires will be going away anytime soon. As a matter of fact, it appears the technology is even set for some big improvements in the coming years, as a Japanese company called Omikenshi has just developed a much more affordable and environment-friendly material that can be used to built these tires.
According to a Nikkei report, Omikenshi’s new cellulose fiber alternative—which it aims to commercialize in fiscal year 2021—can be produced at roughly half the cost with half the carbon emissions as high-tenacity rayon fibers that are commonly used in run-flat tires. The material was developed alongside Shinshu University, rubber maker Zeon, and other partners.
Omikenshi senior executive Toshifumi Maeda says the company aims to “capture demand from tiremakers conscious of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.” The company is also reportedly looking into other ways to utilize the new material in building other products such as air and water filters.
What do you think of these recent developments? Tell us in the comments.