We are always looking for new, innovative ways to change our lifestyle and the lifestyles of those around us and the world. We want to produce products to make life simple, efficient, and stress free. The future may have a variety of inventions for us to cram our lifestyles with, but here we will discuss a relatively new feature the automotive industry has been developing for many years now: an innovation known as airless tires.
Major automotive industries have proposed airless tires as an alternative to the conventional tire inflated with air. They believe these innovative tires may hold the key to a new future for your vehicle's performance and ability to handle certain driving conditions. However, 100% airless tires are still being heavily tested and experimented with. As with any invention or consumer technology, consumers will weigh the pros and cons. However, in this article we will focus solely on providing information regarding this topic and the disadvantages that surround these types of tires.
About Airless Tires
Whether these types of tires will be a regular consumer product is still being debated. Many believe tires with 100% air is the way of the future. Several big name, well-known manufacturers such as Michelin, Bridgestone, and Resilient Technologies have been experimenting with airless tires for around 10 years now. They believe things like the danger or the inconvenience of flat tires will no longer be an issue with these new tires. These types of tires are also known as non-pneumatic tires or run-flats. You may have seen airless tires on a variety of different vehicles without exactly knowing it.
You can find these tires on small vehicles such as riding lawn mowers or golf carts. They also use these tires on heavier vehicles such as backhoes because while operating on demolition sites, a flat tire can have catastrophic consequences. You can also find these tires on bicycles and wheelchairs.
Tires with no air have their drawbacks, but these depend on their use. Because bicycle tires are more exposed to punctures than a bigger, stronger tire on a motor vehicle, tires with no air are a quality alternative to the conventional air tire. However, some bicycle riders who use tires with no air complain about their tires being much harder than the typical tire. Any solid tire will be heavier than the conventional tire, but some pneumatic tires can also be heavy.
The typical operator of heavy equipment with solid tires of no air will complain about fatigue. But lawn mowers using solid tires, or tires with no air, will not have these same drawbacks. Airless tires are being made and used for different situations and conditions. They can provide many advantages and disadvantages for the consumer.
How Do They Work?
Your typical day-to-day vehicle tire will use a conventional tire. You will fill this hollowed out tube with air. Comfort and traction is key for the driver and passengers. However, the danger of a vehicle accident do to a flat is always relevant with these conventional tires. That is where this new breed of airless tires could come in handy, and why the industry is looking into their development. Let's look at some examples of airless tires by major tire manufacturers:
A familiar face among the automotive tire manufacturing business is Michelin. In 2005, Michelin developed what they call a "tweel." The tweel is a combination of a tire and a wheel fused into one part. This innovation, of course, operates entirely with no air. A few selling points by Michelin and their tweel are its load carrying ability, shock absorbing qualities, and handling characteristics.
They propose that these important qualities of the tweel exceed the performance of a conventional pneumatic tire. However, there seems to be a pitfall with this innovation. If you use the tweel and drive over 50 miles per hour, you will experience a lot of vibration. Therefore, do not expect to see these "tweels" on the market soon.
For the past several years, Resilient Technologies have been working on creating a "non-pneumatic tire" with the aid of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Polymer Engineering Center. This non-pneumatic tire is basically a round polymeric honeycomb. They wrap the honeycomb with a thick, black tread. They initially made this honeycomb for the Humvee back in 2012.
Another powerhouse in the automotive tire industry is Bridgestone. Bridgestone is developing a tire comparable to Michelin's tweel. Bridgestone calls it an air-free concept tire. This tire can hold up to 330 pounds per tire. It uses an energy return system. They connect the outer edge of the tire to the inner rim with the use of an innovative spring system. They can adjust these springs to change the vehicle handling characteristics.
Big Tyre Pty Ltd
An automotive tire manufacturer you may not be familiar with, but which has been making headway in tire innovation over the years, is Big Tyre Pty Ltd, in Australia. Big Tyre Pty in Australia has been developing a "non-pneumatic, non-solid wheel." They are designing this tire with the concept of handling large working loads. Vehicles and equipment used in underground mines may benefit from this tire innovation. This unique tire uses several arrays of concentric leaf springs. They design these types of springs to distribute the force evenly across the whole non-pneumatic wheel.
As you can see, many prevalent automotive tire manufacturers around the world see a serious use in the consumer need for tires with no air. They have been experimenting and testing different ways to develop tires with no air for many years now, not only for us in the average vehicle but also for vehicles and equipment with specific purposes. Progress is in the results and these tires will continue to evolve for years to come.
Obviously, tires with no need for air cannot go flat. This feature is their main selling point to the public. These types of tires promise the consumer all the benefits of regular tires but without the nagging fear of punctures or the need for inflation. Without the danger of a flat tire, people will also have less need for purchasing new tires. But are these qualities of airless tires enough proof to push for wide-scale manufacturing? Are these tires really that great for the public? Let's dive into the disadvantages of this automotive innovation.
The Disadvantages of Airless Tires
Using airless tires is attractive to the consumer depending on the equipment and use of that equipment. Consider these disadvantages of tires with no air before you find yourself sold on this potential automotive overhaul:
Obviously, airless tires will come at a big price. Think about it: tires with no air will be more expensive for the consumer. This is one of the biggest reasons these types of tires are not already available. We don't exactly know yet how long airless tires would last. The longevity of these tires would most likely ramp up the cost of your vehicle. This makes these types of tires non-economical because most of us cannot afford this technology.
A quality you can expect from airless tires is their stiffness. These tires are build in a solid form, which means you should expect vibrations, and a lot of them, to be hitting you. This drives down the comfort factor of your day-to-day driving experience. A bumpy road could end up being your worst nightmare.
With a conventional tire you can adjust the air level. This means that when driving over a rough surface or rocky roads, you can lower the amount of air pressure your tires have in them and experience a softer ride. Airless tires lack this ability to adjust your tire pressure levels. No air adjustability means these tires are less versatile in situations like these. You cannot adjust your tires to meet the demands of your driving conditions. This may not matter to some consumer, but it is still an important disadvantage worth noting.
Before you spot airless tires on your average neighbor's everyday vehicle, you'll most likely see them used more on bicycles, lawn mowers, and wheelbarrows. And look for us to use them first on tractors and large trucks ,such as garbage trucks, as the years go by. It is through these early trials that we may come to resolve the issues regarding airless tires.
Airless tires offer promising benefits to individuals with long commutes and to certain industries, but they still seem to be a few years off from full-scale use and production. Kinks are still being ground out by the major tire manufacturers. Airless tires seem to offer a wide range of benefits and confidence to the consumer. But as you can see, they have their pitfalls. Comfort and the price of airless tires are weighing issues. Not everyone will struggle with the disadvantages of these tires, but they are important things to consider before you go out and purchase a new set of airless tires.
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