The Airless Tire.
posted on Oct 13 2014 by Gabe Grover
The constant disposal of used tires is becoming an ever growing issue for our environment, in America alone, over 280 million tires are disposed of every year, and only 11% of these are recycled and this leaves over 250 million tires in scrap heaps and dumps.
There are many issues that come with this method of disposal, the tires can spontaneously combust, bursting into uncontrollable flames, which then release toxic fumes into the air that we then breath in. These tires are also sometimes buried in dumps, but this method only means that poisonous gasses are trapped underground, and then eventually burst through the surface which can cause tires to fly into the air.
To give you an idea, if you stacked all of these on top of each other, the tower of tires would reach halfway the distance to the moon. These tires take hundreds of years to decompose, and even with new ways of recycling them, the issue is worsening.
The conventional tire has been a well engraved part of our society for nearly a century, and the process of getting them fixed, replaced or repaired has simply been an expected ordeal for drivers.
But now, French tire manufacturing giant Michelin have released a new type of wheel. Currently only available for heavy machinery used in construction due to motoring restrictions and regulations, Michelin’s ‘Tweel’ may well be the next big thing in motoring.
The ‘Tweel’ is made of extremely flexible polyurethane and glass reinforced plastics, and Michelin have stated that this wheel could theoretically run forever, meaning no replacement or maintenance costs.
But Michelin aren’t the only company trying to get ahead in the airless tire industry, Japanese company Bridgestone have been working on a product they call ‘The Airfree Concept’. This wheel has been shown at several showcases and conventions. By replacing the conventional air of a tire with interlacing spokes with a special curvature that permits the wheel to be rigid, yet extremely flexible and by using thermoplastic resin in its support structure instead of air, Bridgestone have made a tire that makes rid of tire maintenance, without sacrificing comfort.
Another airless tire that’s been shown is a product called the ERW (Energy Return Wheel), created by inventor Brian Russell, the ERW’s patent was first filed in 2004, this extremely durable alternative to the inconvenient conventional tire suspends the wheel between the tire, an energy absorbing membrane, and the rim. This system means that the tire hypothetically, creates more energy for the cars in terms of forward force.
The membrane, which is used to resolve the issue of noise and vibrations raised by airless tires, completely engulfs the tire, meaning that any noise or vibrations are absorbed by the membrane and then returned to the rolling motion of the wheel.
Could this mean that tires may well be on their way out, but do you think that these advancements will mean the end of the classic feel of burning rubber?