It is difficult to drive more than a mile through a large city without seeing at least a dozen signs advertising car tires for sale. Now, in what is shaping up to be one of this decade’s surprising scientific developments, several companies are selling airless tires. The latest offering comes from Polaris, an off-road vehicle specialist, who will begin selling an airless tire in early 2014. Using a plastic developed by Polaris engineers and chemists, the non-pneumatic tire contains a webbing system for support. The bottom line is that the new Polaris tire will not be susceptible to punctures or blowouts.
For an up-close look at airless tires in action, see the short video clip above. Some non-pneumatic tires are filled with polymers while others use a non-filled honeycomb arrangement to absorb shock and release heat to the open air. Tests have shown non-pneumatic tires to be exceptionally strong, puncture-resistant, and agile. One challenge for designers and engineers is to find a way for airless tires to absorb as much road shock as traditional units. Research has progressed a lot in the past ten years. Experts say that airless tires could become commonplace in the retail auto market within this decade. The next time you see a ‘car tires for sale’ sign, airless units might be part of the inventory.
Large companies that offer car tires for sale are working hard to create non-pneumatic, also called airless, tires. Already used on small vehicles like lawnmowers and golf carts, airless tires never go flat, do not burst, and offer a longer life than conventional tires. Michelin, Polaris (see above) and Bridgestone are three corporations at the forefront of this new technology. Some airless systems use polymers to fill the inside of the unit. This allows the tire to dissipate heat that builds up during usage.