According to CNET reporting, many new concepts were revealed at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, held this past week, but as far as I am concerned, the most exciting was Bridgestone’s second-generation prototype of its Air Free tire. This design improves upon the debut prototype, introduced in 2011, with better shock absorption.
Bridgestone is not alone in its pursuit to perfect the airless tire. You may recall my post about airless tires for military vehicles, or have heard about other airless tire concepts in the works from manufacturers including Michelin and Hankook. But Bridgestone’s release of this newest prototype indicates that the industry leader may be close to having a consumer product ready to roll out within the next few years.
Bridgestone’s Air Free tire design replaces the cushion of air in conventional tires with an array of shock-absorbing resin bands that look like thick, angled spokes. The outer surface of the airless tire is coated with a replaceable tread comprised of a thin band of solid rubber.
While improvements have been made to the Air Free tire’s shock absorption, there is still an issue of lateral stiffness that needs to be worked out before it is ready for market. Testing is set to begin with Toyota single-passenger vehicles within a year.
In addition to eliminating the hazards posed by blow-outs, the Bridgestone Air Free tire is designed to be completely recyclable, meaning that it would be safer for the environment while providing a safer ride.