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Why Your Cars Haven’t Switched To Airless Tyres Yet

9 March 2022 AutoMarket, Petrol saving tips

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you never had to deal with a flat tyre again? You could drive anywhere in the world, visiting tough terrains with no fear! This can be made possible through the use of airless tyres. But is the future of tyres airless? Here is why your car doesn’t have airless tyres… yet.

It's not a new concept.

To begin with, airless tyres, commonly known as non-pneumatic tyres (NPTs), have been around for quite some time.

Lawn mowers, golf carts, military vehicles, and even bicycles include them.

So, why are we discussing them now?

Because tyre behemoths like Goodyear and Michelin are finally working on airless tyre technology for passenger cars.

Goodyear has been testing the technology on self-driving shuttles and a Tesla Model 3, while Michelin has partnered with GM to develop its own NPT, dubbed "Uptis" (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System).

What's the big deal?

First and foremost, there's the obvious benefit of no more flat tyres. There are no blowouts or air loss failures that could cause a hazard on the road.

This means you won't need to carry a spare tyre with you, which not only saves room but also decreases vehicle weight, which improves fuel economy — or range in the case of electric vehicles.

Furthermore, airless tyres are puncture-resistant and thus more durable, resulting in a longer service life.

Airless tyres are also better for the environment. Because of their durability, they are less likely to end up in a landfill early, as is typically the case with punctured air tyres.

Furthermore, the use of less raw materials for replacement or spare tyre production can result in significant environmental savings.

What's the catch, then?

There are a few.

Although you won't have to worry about a flat tyre, non-pneumatic tyres are not unbreakable. The heat generated by road friction cannot be dispersed without air, increasing the risk of overheating, damage, or failure.

Airless tyres have a greater contact patch with the road surface than regular tyres, which increases rolling resistance. As a result, the car generates more drag and consumes more fuel.

Furthermore, the rigidity of airless tyres communicates more road imperfections to the suspension, which causes vibrations to be transmitted to the occupants of the car. As a result, you should expect a bumpy and possibly uncomfortable journey.

Finally, they'll almost certainly be more expensive. Goodyear and Michelin haven't revealed market prices yet but given that the technology is still in its infancy, I expect it won't be cheap, at least at first.

What can we look forward to in the future?

There are other obstacles in the way of widespread NPT adoption, and the airless tyres developed by the two businesses are still in the development and testing stages.

Michelin expects to have them ready by 2024, while Goodyear plans to have them available by 2030.

We have no doubt that NPTs will become popular at some point, but their performance and pricing must be similar to those of ordinary tyres, which appears to be a long way off.

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