Experimental tyres can capture static electricity.
Experimental tyres can capture static electricity.

New tyres can produce electricity

Your car tyres could soon be used to generate electricity.

Japanese tyre manufacturer Sumitomo Rubber has developed a small device that sits inside the tyre to capture static electricity created as the tyre rotates.

Developed in conjunction with Kansai University in Osaka, the "power generating device" or "Energy Harvester" is something Sumitomo says has "great potential for practical applications as a power source for various automotive digital tools".

The small device has electrodes between two pieces of charged film that can capture a "type of static electricity called frictional charging to generate electric power efficiently each time a tyre's footprint deforms as a tyre rotates".

While the small amount of electricity created are unlikely to be used to recharge batteries for a hybrid system, Sumitomo says they could be used to power small sensors such as those used in tyre pressure monitoring systems.

Sumitomo Tyres ‘power generating device’
Sumitomo Tyres ‘power generating device’

"We are confident that the results of this latest research will lead to practical applications for this new technology as a power source … without any need for batteries," the company said in a press release.

The electricity harvesting technology is being further developed with the assistance of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, a national research agency.

"Moving forward, we will continue working to advance this research with support from the Japan Science and Technology Agency," said Sumitomo in its press release.

It's not the first time tyre manufacturers have turned to tyres to look at capturing energy.

In 2015 the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed what appears to be similar technology to that used by Sumitomo, using a nonogenerator to capture the energy from the movement of the tyre.

Also in 2015 Goodyear envisioned a world where the heat and movement created in tyres could be turned into electricity.

Audi has also worked on suspension systems that can turn the jolts over bumps into electricity.

More recently, Hyundai incorporated solar panels into its upcoming Sonata Hybrid.

They are indicative of myriad engineering efforts by car makers to work on ways to capture small amounts of energy with the view to reducing fuel use or, in the case of electric vehicles, energy consumption.