One of the most important inventions of mankind is the wheel and even today, engineers are finding ways to make it better for the entire automotive world depends on it. Funnily enough, the whole host of technological advancements that make cars and bikes faster and safer today, will be of no use if the wheels and tyres are not able to transfer power made by the car’s powertrain and provide grip.
In recent times, Rolls Royce made a big fuss about how proud they are with their wheels and tyres, claiming that they are one of the quietest in the industry and they had a point. Tyres are one of the biggest noise producers when it comes to a car or a bike, for they are essentially air-filled chambers that can rotate at high speeds. Automakers have been pulling their hairs with regards to making tyres quieter.
However, there was a catch. Any measures made in that particular direction resulted in increased weight and that is a strict no-no. Carmakers who pride themselves in making the most fuel-efficient cars or the most agile and nimble ones could not do anything about the noise created by the tyres. Some tried to add extra sound deadening, while others piped in engine noise inside the cabin to reduce tyre noise from filtering in.
More recently however, automakers have been using devices that can counter a sound wave and essentially neutralise it. Rolls Royce has been a maker of luxury cars for more than a century now. This means the firm gives no importance whatsoever to Nurburgring lap times and focuses instead on road comfort. For a company that prides itself in stating that the loudest thing one can head in their car is the clock, tyre noise is not acceptable inside the cabin.
So, in the new Phantom, for instance, the automaker added 300 pounds of sound deadening material, apart from using triple layer glass and double ‘skins’ in the bulkheads. However, Rolls Royce also decided to cancel the noise from where it comes in the first place and it was an ingenious idea. They went to their tyremaker and asked them make a tyre that is as quiet as possible. The result is that a special tyre was created with foam inside that offers a smooth ride, but more importantly, a quiet one.
I adore the engineers of the British marquee for thinking that adding a few more pounds is not going to make a big deal in a car that weighs as much as a small mountain from the Karakoram range. I do not understand why all cars and bikes do not have the feature. Think about it, a small hatchback would be much quieter if the tyres fitted to it had the technology. Also, the ride would be much better.
If automakers state that adding weight to a car is bad, then what about the electric motors that they add to guide air vents, move the seats, open and close mirrors and operate the sunroof? All of this is not needed and yet they put it in a car knowing fully well that it robs economy. Surely if that can be done, this could be provided too.
Better still, if they could bother swapping the electric sunroof and use the heavier but quieter tyres, the whole experience will be much sweeter. It is a fact that the rich get to experience all the bells and whistles first and then the tech filters down down the fiscal auto-food chain for the masses to use. But when touch screens can be had in a small, affordable car, surely these tyres could be fitted as well.
But, I think, I know why carmakers do not do that. If a Maruti Swift, for instance, had similar tech to the Baleno, then chances are people might settle for the affordable car because the differentiator between them is quite less. Then, a carmaker would not be able to sell an entire range of cars and that is detrimental to business. It is that simple.