‘Airless tire could be on the market soon’

Under development for many years, the airless tire for cars is still at a prototype stage, but some heavy-duty equipment already makes good use of it. Advantages include the complete resistance to puncture, lower maintenance, and easier recycling. However, this do-it-all tire is still facing issues with road noise and suspension.

Goodyear is currently developing its non-pneumatic tire after having filed the first patent in 1982. Michelin is already marketing the Tweel for commercial use, but the French manufacturer is promising “announcements” by the end of 2022 for the automotive market. Likewise, Bridgestone targets a market launch within five to ten years.

The perfect tire?

Talks of the airless tire have been going on for years. The first patent was filed by American tire manufacturer Goodyear back in 1982. Since then, development has been going on and off, with the only real market applications being for lawnmowers or heavy-duty equipment in quarries.

That being said, the perfect tire could soon equip our cars. A tire that doesn’t require pneumatic pressure and therefore is impervious to punctures or any other kind of fade. It is also said to be better in rough weather and easier to maintain. One structure could be used for the car’s life, only requiring retreading once in a while, as is the case with truck tires.

‘Within five to ten years’

Goodyear is currently developing the ‘non-pneumatic’ tire, using a Tesla as a test vehicle. With already 120 000 km under its belt at up to 160 kph, there’s proof that the technology works. However, road noise and adherence are still major black spots. “The second-gen tire will be lighter, designed to offer less rolling resistance and less noise,” notes Project Manager Michael Rachita during a press event.

Michelin is already marketing the Tweel for lawnmowers and heavy equipment. But the French manufacturer is promising airless-related news by the end of 2022. Bridgestone, for its part, is already testing it on commercial vehicles. Versions of its airless tires already equip shuttles on university campuses. The Japanese manufacturer targets a market launch within five to ten years.

Business model change

That being said, the airless tire still has a long way to go. A manager at Continental declared it wasn’t a viable solution due to issues with suspension geometry and road noise. Furthermore, tire manufacturers will have to completely change their factory and assembly plants and their business model.

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