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Airless tires: the future of transportation?

POSTED: July 29, 2014 4:00 p.m.
Courtesy of Bridgestone/

The AirFree Concept 2nd generation from Bridgestone.

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SALT LAKE CITY 

Manufacturers are working to perfect airless tires in hopes of making flats a thing of the past.

Airless tires could improve road safety and benefit the environment, according to developers. The alternative tires are currently only sold by a couple of companies for ATVs and industrial vehicles, but they could soon be ready for use on commuter vehicles.
Bridgestone showed off the latest version of its “air-free concept tire” at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2014. The tires aren’t ready for regular cars yet — they can go a maximum of 38 mph on ultralight vehicles — but they are getting close.

“With a unique structure of spokes stretching along the inner sides of the tires supporting the weight of the vehicle, there is no need to periodically refill the tires with air, meaning that the tires require less maintenance,” a statement from the company reads. “At the same time, the worry of punctures is eliminated.”

Another benefit of the tire is that when the tread wears down, only the outer layer needs to be replaced, cutting down on the amount of rubber that needs to be recycled. The company claims that use of the tires would also reduce CO2 emissions it has low rolling resistance.

For those who don’t want to wait to use airless tire technology, another version of the tire is already available for commercial purchase on an ATV. The Polaris Sportsman WV850, featuring the company’s Terrain Armor Non-Pneumatic Tires, became available for order in December with an MSRP of $14,999.

The ATV is an adaptation of a vehicle Polaris developed for the military. The tires can last for 350 miles after being hit by a .50-caliber round or 1,000 miles with a railroad spike in the tread and webbing, according to the company.
Michelin also sells an airless tire, the award-winning Tweel, for use on skid-steer loaders. The vehicles are used in construction, landscaping and agricultural industries.

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