Sometimes we like to report on interesting developments in the tire industry. This one relates to a recent post on the topic run-flat tires. The run-flat is a type of “blowout-proof” tire, which is still susceptible to pressure loss limitation. There is another kind of tire on the horizon that is even more impervious to damage, and it may be one step closer to reality for consumers.
Wisconsin-based Resilient Technologies has been developing a patent-pending design for non-pneumatic (airless) tires since 2005. The tires are made from a proprietary plastic and feature a honeycomb-like structure, which allows the tire to remain rigid without the need for air-filled support. The three main elements of the tire include an inner steel rim, the honeycomb support structure, and a rubber tread band with makes contact with driving surfaces. Since pressure is never a factor, damage to the outer band from tears or punctures do not compromise the tire performance. These tires have been in use in military applications and have proven successful in withstanding damage and performing reliably in hostile situations requiring continuous mobility.
Bridgestone, Michelin and other leading tire manufacturers have also invested research into the development of their own iterations of the non-pneumatic tire, but are still a long way away from rolling out a consumer version. But according to a recent news report, an ATV version will soon be available. Off-road vehicle manufacturer Polaris, which acquired Resilient Technology, plans to release an ATV model for consumers as early as next year.
While time will tell how this new tire design fares down the road, the NPT tire as some impressive military grade testing behind it. According to the report:
“Engineers shot test tires with 50-caliber rounds from an AK-47 and then subjected them to 5,000 hours of off-roading. On another outing that involved crossing a train tracks, a rail spike punctured the tread band of an NPT, but the rider kept going on it for more than 1,000 miles.”