With electrification and constant new innovations happening in the automobile industry, it’s been showing promising technological advancements every now and then. This time it is a stint for new development in the tyre segment for the vehicles. It is often a frustrating experience for motorist to come across a flat tyre that needs one to pull off the highway. This soon shall be a distant memory with the new technological development that would quite literally reshape the entire experience with vehicles. Running flat will be off books, since tyres without air cannot go flat.
Although John Boyd Dunlop developed the first practical pneumatic tyre in 1887 and ever since has been used in mini excavators, forklifts, military vehicles and bicycles, but never has it ever been used for cars before.
Airless Tyres for Cars
With new advancement, many manufacturers like Michelin, Bridgestone, etc. are now into testing their own airless designs that would forever change those humble tyres.
These tires which are tagged by different names such as non-pneumatic tyres or flat free tyres are a new generation technology for the cars that would be puncture-proof, eco-friendly and that would minimize the danger on the roads.
The airless tyres are not supported by air pressure but rather by a rib suspension system, sort of like rubber spokes. Instead of rubber sidewalls, like the ones in the traditional tyres, these tyres have a see-through repelling spoke that not only suspend the tyres from hitting the ground, but also act as mini shock absorbers.
Since these tyres aren’t filled with air, they aren’t susceptible to punctures from either the debris on the roads or hitting potholes in speed. With no chance of puncture, carrying a spare won’t be needed which will in turn free up the boot space. This would provide more storage space, less weight leading to better mileage. With a smaller number of tyres that need to be scrapped annually, it will slash pollution and reduce the amount of raw materials needed to construct new tyres.
Current Developments of Airless Tyres
While the world is euphoric about the all-electric, feature-loaded future cars, this new innovation would be an added welcome change to the new generation of vehicles.
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Michelin has partnered with GM with a joint research agreement, under which they are testing UPTIS Prototype (Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System) that is re-engineered and well-suited for current vehicles, with near-zero maintenance from the tyre to maximize their operating capabilities.
Bridgestone too is developing a protype which looks futuristic and revolutionary that features a unique spoke structure that is designed to support the weight of a vehicle, eliminating the need to periodically refill the tyres with air.
Finding a way to avoid trapping of debris in the spokes or finding a way to distribute weight evenly and consistently to transmit loads, are a few hurdles that seek development and innovations. Spectators therefore speculate that the technology is still about a decade or so away.
UPTIS is a production-ready version of the Tweel System which Michelin unveiled in 2005, which promised performance levels beyond those possible with conventional pneumatic technology. While Bridgestone too is expecting to bring about commercial use in a wide range of vehicles as soon as possible. The expected availability of these tyres are likely in 2024.
Airless Tyres are fascinating because of the low maintenance, extreme durability & it’s nice way of environmental footprint that would erase a lot of negative impacts and problems that are faced due to traditional tyres. This means that airless tyres would be a welcome step forward for consumers as well as the auto industry in near future.
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