Auto Tech

Michelin wants to put wood in your tires

It might sound weird, but it could help in a big way.

Normally, the wood you'd get in a tire would be frustrating, not a sigh of environmental relief.

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You might not give them much thought, but tires are an important part of your car. Trouble is, they're not exactly filled with the friendliest materials, which is why Michelin wants to stuff 'em full of wood -- and not in a way that'll have you pulling the spare out of the trunk.

Michelin is investigating the use of wood in its tires, Motoring.com.au reports, citing an interview with Cyrille Roget, Michelin's director of scientific and innovation communications. The wood will be sourced from industry waste, and it could help reduce reliance on something you might not think about with tires -- oil.

According to Roget, approximately 80 percent of the materials in a standard car tire come from the oil industry. Using waste wood to create elastomers (flexible polymers) for tires could be much more sustainable -- in fact, it could allow people all over the world to have local sources for their tire materials, instead of relying on oil producers. It's a lot easier to grow a tree than drill for oil. Rubber will still be a vital component of tires, but Michelin wants that to be more sustainable, too.

Michelin hopes to have a proof-of-concept tire ready by 2020, which isn't very far off. The company is thinking even further down the road than that -- it's also researching 3D-printed tires that could last for the life of a car, being "renewed" via 3D printing whenever the tread gets low. However, Michelin doesn't believe that tech will be ready for another 10 or 15 years, barring any sort of major breakthrough.