In its piece The Invention of the Wheel, ThoughtCo* notes that the oldest known wheel – discovered in archaeological excavations in modern-day Iraq – comes from Mesopotamia and is believed to be over 5 500 years old. “It was not used for transportation, though, but rather as a potter’s wheel,” states the article. Regardless, the combination of the wheel and axle made early forms of transportation possible. These became more sophisticated over time with the development of other technologies.
The Bridgestone Group provides an insightful summary of the history of tyres and wheels, in a piece of the same name on its website. Here, it reiterates that the wheel was invented during the Bronze Age, around 3 500 BC. When the invention was transferred to transport, leather was added to soften the ride, and this was eventually replaced by rubber. “Original rubber tyres were made of solid rubber, without air, and could be used only by slow speed vehicles,” relates Bridgestone.
“It was only as recently as 1888 that Karl Benz invented the first gasoline car, fitted with unique metal tyres covered with rubber, and filled with air – the revolutionary pneumatic tyre. The popular use of pneumatic tyres began in 1895 after they featured in an automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux that year,” the tyre and rubber products company continues.
Threaded tyres joined the line of innovations in 1905: “Designed to protect the tyre carcass from direct contact with the road, (these) also improved the road surface friction coefficient.”
In late 1913, Henry Ford introduced the world’s first conveyor belt assembly line, marking the beginning of automobile popularisation, and a consequent rise in the need for tyres.
“Until the 1930s, tyre production relied upon expensive and limited quantities of natural rubber. In 1931, DuPont, a chemicals company, successfully industrialised the production of synthetic rubber. This development increased both the availability and production of tyre rubber,” Bridgestone points out.
Today, these rollers are more specialised than they’ve ever been, and the innovation isn’t losing momentum.
Goodyear has recently introduced its first electric vehicle (EV)-ready tyre compatible with commercial EVs, offering ultra-low rolling resistance and energy efficiency.
“The new RangeMax RSD EV strives to live up to its name and deliver the superior range and confidence that comes with ultra-low rolling resistance,” says Tom Lippello, senior director of commercial marketing at Goodyear North America.
The new tyre is available in size 295/75R22.5 (albeit not in the South African market) and features the company’s Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake and Snow designations. The US tyre company also highlights that its new tyre model has a premium casing construction for toughness and durability. Its enhanced tread pattern has been designed for high torque applications, for which EVs are renowned.
“With the continued growth we’re observing in the regional EV segment, changing powertrains and fleets’ cost-savings and sustainability priorities, Goodyear recognised an opportunity to provide fleets and original equipment manufacturers with a tyre designed for the unique needs of these vehicles,” Lippello adds.
EV trucks aren’t the only workhorses that are getting their wheels revamped, though.
RETREADED TYRES FROM A NEW ACCOUNT
Continental has devised a new service for its tyre dealers: the ContiCasingAccount. This allows dealers to earn credit by “paying” used casings from their truck customers into an account. This credit can then be used flexibly, within a year, to acquire retreaded tyres for a dealer’s customers, as and when required. The dealer also benefits from an attractive exchange price for the retreaded tyre.
The new service has already been successfully tested in collaboration with 28 dealers in Germany. The next step is to roll out the programme to all tyre dealers interested in taking part.
“Continental’s casing bank works very intuitively and digitally,” tyre dealer Dirk Thomsen, managing director of Reifen Thomsen Tarp, reports. “It is practical, simple, and sustainable. So, it fits our corporate philosophy, strengthens customer relationships, and makes our work easier.”
Eric Hoffmann, managing director of Reifen Hofmann, agrees. His tyre dealerships, at six locations in the region around the German city of Kassel, offer customers an all-round tyre service – and Continental’s casing bank is part of it: “The ContiCasingAccount brings significant added value for all parties involved, in terms of costs, tyre service life, and emissions,” Hoffmann emphasises.
The initial verdict is that the ContiCasingAccount reduces fleet costs, optimises tyre life, and cuts emissions. In short, it offers clear benefits for everyone involved. “Using our retread solutions with well-maintained Continental casings allows us to lower tyre costs by 30 to 40%,” explains Annika Lorenz, head of fleet solutions at Continental Germany. “Retreading a tyre saves around 70% of the materials required for manufacturing a new tyre, greatly reducing the environmental impact. Besides these raw material savings, retreading also helps to bring down CO2 emissions, as well as water and energy consumption.”
GREATER DISTRIBUTION (CLOSER TO HOME)
Goodyear is also making these circular movers more accessible in South Africa. The company has partnered with Exclusive Wheel and Tyre Distributors to deliver a new go-to-market strategy for Goodyear’s truck tyre business.
“Goodyear is an active partner to South Africa’s automotive industry, and we continue to grow our capability and commitment to the country. The decision to partner with Exclusive Wheel and Tyre Distributors on this new go-to-market strategy for our truck business forms part of our drive to enhance service and efficiency to customers and underlines our commitment to the sustainable growth of the industry,” says Goodyear South Africa managing director, Richard Fourie. Customers are expected to reap even more benefits from this new collaboration, such as improved stock levels and wider availability of tyre sizes across the country.
“This partnership marks a truly significant milestone for us as an organisation, on our journey to establish ourselves as industry leaders. We look forward to embarking on this new leg of the journey with Goodyear as our partner, and accelerating our goal of adding further value to our industry,” says Exclusive Wheel and Tyre Distributors managing director, Rihaan Omar.
The wheel has certainly come a long way since it first started rolling in Mesopotamia; it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this dynamic disc.
* ThoughtCo is a premier reference site with more than 20 years’ experience in producing expert-created educational content.