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A Brief History Of Tires

“You can’t reinvent the wheel,” they said. Charles Goodyear proved them wrong. By adding sulfur into the mix, he turned the previously meltable rubber into a more firm and durable form.

Then came Robert William Thomson who invented the first pneumatic tire, further consolidating Charles Goodyear’s work. In short, that’s how it all started. We have these two people to thank for how we drive nowadays. However, the story gets even more interesting further down the line.

The Revolutionary 1800s

The new design that Thomson had proposed made rubber tires able to absorb shocks and gain more traction while reducing vibrations. During these times, Thomson proposed wrapping a cover over a stack of thin inflated tires to increase their resistance to punctures.

However, his design did not go through because, technologically speaking, it was too advanced for this time. The good news is that, in 1888, John Boyd Dunlop improved Thomson’s design with the goal of increasing his son’s tricycle’s performance. And, unlike Thomson, Dunlop’s design was quickly adopted by manufacturers and the public.

This is how Dunlop Rubber was born, with the goal of mass-producing bicycle tires. Then at the beginning of 1900, they finally designed their first car tire.

Then Came The 1900s

It was during this period that tires and wheels sales started skyrocketing. While Edouard and Andre Michelin had the idea to place a patent for a detachable pneumatic tire in 1891, but it wasn’t until 1946 that their efforts saw the light of day.

The radial steel-belted rubber tire from Michelin truly brought massive improvements to how we use vehicle wheels. Europe quickly started adopting this new technology and saw massive improvements in how their cars ran and how much fuel they would consume.

However, Americans were much slower in adopting the radial tire. The main reason is that their car manufacturers were reluctant to change their cars’ designs by that much. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it), the fuel crisis took them by storm during the 1970s. As such, they finally adopted the radial tire to improve their cars’ fuel economy and lifespan.

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What Did The 2000s Bring?

While the previous two centuries brought major innovations, the 2000s left us feeling a bit meh. However, due to increased interest in environmental protection, several attempts were made to further improve how tires are made and manufactured in order to reduce carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

Fortunately, while tires haven’t evolved all that much per se during the 2000s or even the 2010s, cars have seen major improvements regarding the way they function and how they impact the environment.

You see, we now have hybrid and electric cars widely available for many budgets. While throughout the 2000s electric cars were mediocre at best, we now have electric and hybrid vehicles found at all price points. With companies like Tesla, BMW, and Audi bringing their best to make things more environmentally friendly, you can be sure that other competitors will start doing the same.

Other Considerations

We’ve talked a lot about car tires throughout the article, but we don’t want you to forget that there are tires for other types of vehicles as well.

Other than that, we can only hope that in the near future we will find a method to manufacture tires in a completely earth-friendly way. And, hopefully, we might even find more eco-friendly materials to build future tires.

Final Thoughts

The history of tires is an interesting one, to say the least. People keep saying that you can’t reinvent the wheel, yet here it, significantly different than how it used to be hundreds of years ago when it was only used for carriages, plows, and other similar equipment.

Who knows? Maybe the future might not involve any wheels or tires at all. Maybe we will all be like the Jetsons, with hovering cars and all that jazz. Feel free to leave us a comment and share your thoughts on this topic.

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