New tires will be phased out by 2021 in the United States and Europe, as automakers shift toward less energy-efficient materials and fewer parts.
In 2018, only 3.5 percent of U.S. vehicles had tires with treads over 20 years old, down from 8.5 in 2019, according to an analysis by the U.K.-based Tire Research Institute.
“This is the end of the road for tires,” said Mark Wiegand, a professor of automotive engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
“Tires will be gone from a lot of these cars in the next few years.”
That’s because tires are not nearly as energy-friendly as gasoline-burning engines.
“We’re moving away from an engine that is just pumping out heat,” said Bill Bader, chief executive officer of the Consumer Product Research Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for products that reduce emissions.
“What we’re going to see is a shift toward a car that is driven more and more by electric power.”
It could also mean less of a need for a fuel-efficient tire.
As the world becomes more energy-conscious, cars have become more fuel-dependent, with gasoline vehicles using about 40 percent more energy than diesel ones.
That means more people will be driving cars that use more energy.
That’s good news for drivers, because the fuel-saving technology can also help them save money, by reducing maintenance costs and fuel consumption.
“If you’re going after a certain amount of miles per gallon, you need to use less fuel,” said Robert Fennell, an energy analyst at IHS Automotive.
“And you can’t just take a little bit of a reduction in cost and just give up some of the benefits of energy efficiency.”
The biggest challenge is keeping up with the demand for cars.
The number of new vehicles on the road every year is about 25 million, up from about 12 million a decade ago, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The U.N. predicts the number of vehicles on roads will grow to about 1.8 billion by 2030, up about 8 percent from today.
“It’s a challenge for everybody,” Bader said.
“But we’re seeing an acceleration in electric cars.”