Two engineers from the West Midlands have developed a device that allows tyres to communicate with drivers on the move.
Engineers Geoff Haswell and Malcolm Caley have spent the last seven years developing Piezotag, a tyre monitoring system which uses power harvested from wheel rotation to collect and transmit data like tyre pressure, temperature and carbon footprint.
New EU legislation set to ensure every new car is to have monitoring systems fitted by 2014 – which means the market is about to expand substantially – and the pair want to manufacture the product locally.
Unlike traditional monitoring systems Piezotag uses unique design geometry to operate without the use of batteries.
Mr Haswell admitted the pair were initially reticent to manufacture themselves but have come around to the idea after consulting with the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the West Midlands (MAS-WM).
He said: “We have created a unit that sits within the tyre and as it rotates that is how it gets its energy.
“There is one device to measure and a device to transmit the data. It measures air pressure and temperature, which is obviously very important, and also measures things like the carbon footprint.
“The information can be transmitted and can be connected to the display so the driver can see what is going on.”
The monitoring systems provide additional data on driver performance that can help prolong tyre life and reduce fuel consumption.
Mr Haswell, who has a background in mechanical engineering and plastic injection moulding, said the firm will be carrying out testing for the rest of the year with a view to beginning production in the region next year.
The company has already entered into an initial arrangement with Birmingham-based Barkley Plastics to develop prototypes for passenger vehicles and trucks.
And Mr Haswell said the company has spoken to a host of vehicle manufacturers about the technology, with mixed results, but expects demand to pick up as legislation is brought into force.
He added: “The car industry has been quite slow and there are all sorts of barriers to small companies like us.
“Truck companies have been easier to deal with because they are looking for ways to save money as there is a lot of pressure at the moment.”
The deployment of this technology offers a way to reduce the carbon footprint of a vehicle.
Mr Haswell said using the Piezotag a 100-strong vehicle truck fleet could reduce emissions by 470 tonnes of CO2 in a year, and the cost of this wasted fuel could be in excess of £250,000 per fleet.
Mr Caley added: “With this independent backing and patents secured for Europe, China and the US, we are hoping to explore the growing global market demand for intelligent tyres by targeting mainstream and emerging producers, car and commercial vehicle manufacturers and telematics firms.
“The latter are really excited by our ability to capture previously unavailable tyre data, which, when applied across a fleet of vehicles, has the potential to reduce tyre inspection costs while increasing tyre life. Fuel economy is also improved by up to four per cent with better tyre maintenance.”
Martin McKeever, MAS-WM specialist adviser, said: “Piezotag has gone past just being a TPMS and now boasts a proven track record that could revolutionise the way tyres work and are built.
‘‘Yes, there is still work to do to demonstrate the huge benefits it will provide, but when one organisation takes the lead, the rest of the industry will follow.
“This is an invention born in the heart of the West Midlands and I’m delighted that we are helping them develop a supply chain that will see the product manufactured right here in the region.”