Airless Tires Closer to Reality

November 20th, 2013

Airless tires

I fully expect to have a tire catastrophe in the near future.

I accept this fact because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve ignored a tire problem that has cropped up. There’s a slow leak in my front driver’s-side tire that requires a stop at the gas station, four quarters and about 15 pounds of air pressure every couple of days.

There are some who won’t call that a “slow leak,” but instead give it the full-blown label of “leak,” or even “flat tire.”

There are two possibilities with this leak. Either it’s an easy fix that a quick stop at a tire store can fix, or it’s a sign that I’ll soon have a $600 credit-card charge for four new tires.

I foresee the latter, which explains my lack of action to resolve the problem.

If only there was a way to eliminate the need for air in tires…

The concept of airless tires has made its way around the web for years. Some company is always on the verge of new technology that will replace the conventional rubber-wrapped pad of air with a complex web of rigid rubber strips.

Now, finally, the technology has reached a production vehicle.

It’s not street legal, or even used on an actual car, but it’s a step in the right direction. Here’s a quote from an article at MSN Autos:

Polaris, a Minnesota-based maker of high-performance all-terrain vehicles, has a new quad with what it calls “Terrain Armor,” a wheel and tire combination that guarantees protection against railroad spikes, 50-caliber bullets and just about anything else that would destroy a conventional radial tire.

It’s really a shame there are so many 50-caliber bullets ruining conventional radial tires, isn’t it?

Joking aside, the Polaris Sportsman WV850 H.O. will feature the airless tire we’ve dreamed about: The hollow honeycomb rubber structure will bend and distort when riding over a surface. Its open design incorporates a stiff inner hub that also eliminates the need for a separate wheel.

The technology is pretty dang slick, and I’m excited to see how it might be incorporated into traditional passenger vehicles. The problems with use on public roads and highways are wind noise and the possibility of trash or gravel getting stuck inside and/or flung out at high speeds.

I’ll certainly sign up to be an early tester, but it probably won’t happen in the time I have to get new tires. My next set will ride on air, but the set after that? Who knows!

Would you be willing to try airless tires on your car?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    November 20th, 2013 at 18:56 | #1

    Seems like it would be possible to have some kind of airless technology built inside a rubber tire, which would eliminate the need for airing up.

    Actually, run flat tires are already on the market and can be run with no air, but not for long. Also there are equipment tires filled with urethane that require no air but such tires would quickly overheat and fail on the highway and probably not ride very well.

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