Wind of change blows for car tyres

Tyres stacked up

Motorists could soon bid bye-bye to blow outs and ta-ta to tyre changes as manufacturers develop the airless tyre. 

Pneumatic drill

It sounds improbable but a replacement for the pneumatic tyre has been many years in development. In fact, some off road vehicles already use airless tyres. The military have also tested the new-age wheels. So it probably won’t be long before the likes of you and me will fit airless tyres to our own cars in a move that could revolutionise the motor market. Manufacturing giants Michelin and Bridgestone have both developed airless tryes. So has Polaris, an American firm that specialises in all-terrain vehicles.

Another fine mesh

The Polaris airless tyre is made up of a hexagonal honeycomb mesh surrounded by a rubber tread and looks like something out of Terminator.  

It is not only puncture-proof, but Polaris claims it is also quieter and gives a smoother ride, particularly over rough terrain, thanks to its greater shock absorption. It’s called the TerrainArmor. And if it happens to be hit by a .50 caliber bullet travelling at the speed of sound, it will keep rolling for 350 miles. I can think of a few neighbourhoods where that might come in useful…

Bridge of sighs

Bridgestone’s first generation airless tyre came out in 2011, but its capability was limited, with a maximum load bearing weight of just 220 lbs and a top speed of 3.7 mph. The firm unveiled its second generation tyre at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2013 – and it’s a lot more viable. Spokes of thermoplastic resin support the rubber tread and can bear weights up to 904 lbs and travel at speeds of 37 mph. It’s environmentally friendly, too, as the materials used in the manufacture of the air-free tyre are completely recyclable.

Wheel of fortune?

Michelin’s version of the airless tyre made its debut in the nineties. The firm won plaudits for the design, but not for the name – Tweel, a rather cheesy combination of tyre and wheel. The Tweel went on sale in 2012, but as yet is only available for industrial vehicles.

Hit the road, jack

There’s lots to like about airless tyres. For a start, they eliminate the need to get out the jack at the side of the road to change the wheel after a puncture. They also promise a smoother ride, environmental benefits and a long lifespan.

Inflationary pressures

But they are not yet ready to hit the road, so to speak. There’s the price tag for one thing. Airless tyres cost about £700 a piece, which is probably beyond the financial reach of the average motorist.

Sting in the tale

The police might also have a problem with air-free tyres. You know those spike strips or stingers they lay across the road to stop criminals in their tracks? Well they wouldn’t have a hope of stopping a vehicle equipped with airless tyres. So while they might have all manner of advantages, they might not actually be street legal. So don’t hold your breath.

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