Say goodbye to punctures with airless tyres

Remember how annoying it is to get stranded on the roadside because of a flat or punctured tyre? Airless tyres might just solve this issue while improving driving experience and reducing tyre noise. The American company Polaris is ready to go into production of airless tyres. If everything goes well, motorists can buy these cool tyres in 2014.

How it works

Airless tyres or non-pneumatic tyres (NPT) are tyres which do not have air pressure. These tyres are made from ‘closed-cell polyurethane foam.' They are fitted on small and light vehicles such as motorised golf carts, riding lawn movers, or heavy equipment (backhoes). You’ll also find them on wheelchairs, bicycles, and all-terrain vehicles (ATV).

  • Advantages

The main benefit of airless tyres is they cannot go flat eliminating punctures.

  • Disadvantages

However, airless tyres have disadvantages. They provide less suspension and higher rolling resistance contributing to higher fuel consumption. Heat build-up can also occur because airless tyres are filled with compressed plastic instead of air.

  • Developments

Michelin released in 2005 a tyre and wheel combination called the “Tweel” which has load carrying, shock-absorbing, and handling characteristics comparable to conventional tyres. Bridgestone of Japan has also a similar technology with its 'Air-Free Concept Tyre' in 2011. However, both manufacturers have not confirmed if they are ready to go into production.

On the other hand, the collaboration between Resilient Technologies and the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Polymer Engineering Center has produced significant results. Their tyres are currently being used by the US Army. Polaris, a company which manufactures ATVs bought Resilient Technologies. Inspired by the encouraging validation results of airless tyres, Polaris announced it is ready to venture into commercial production. Their airless tyres feature a web-like, honeycomb design which forms the core of the tyres. It prevents the tyres from collapsing. In addition to the strong core, the new airless tyres will also be bullet and spike proof. Polaris claims their airless tyres will give a smoother and quieter ride compared to driving with traditional tyres.

Prices and implications

There is no official word on prices, but industry experts speculate airless tyres will retail in the range of $1000 apiece. It will be also be interesting to see how quickly or slowly motorists will adopt airless tyres. The automotive industry will also be affected since airless tyres are manufactured differently and therefore, issues on mounting, alignment and wheel balancing have to be addressed both in assembly plants and garages.

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