A few months ago, as I was driving down a busy Southern California freeway to catch a flight, I heard a loud noise, followed by heavy rumbling. The car lurched to the left and my spirits took a dive. I had a flat tire and no spare.
Naturally, I was running late and knew that I could have had the tire swapped out in no time if there had been a spare. But like many modern cars, the 2015 Chevrolet Volt I was driving didn't even come equipped with a spare tire in the spare tire-shaped hole beneath the floor of its trunk. It had a big, spare tire-shaped styrofoam block with an electric inflator jammed into it. With little time and few options, I drove two miles on the rim (the cab drivers I called refused to pick me up on the side of a major freeway), found a parking garage, and left the car so I could catch a cab to the airport.
I made my flight, but it could have been worse, as a friend found out while he was driving a new BMW M235i on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That particular road is known for being sparse on exits, so when his car blew a tire, he was roughly in the middle of nowhere. The M235i was one of a growing number of cars designed without a spare, although most BMWs come with run-flat tires. Not so with M models, which are kitted out with hard-to-find performance tires. The electric inflator kit in the trunk didn't do the trick on that occasion.