ATLANTA, Ga. – Tire makers traditionally look for ways to ensure their products maintain air, but Bridgestone Americas is looking to remove air from the equation entirely.
The company was showcasing the concept version of an air-free commercial truck tire during the annual meeting of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance (TMC) council in Atlanta.
Designed for longhaul trailer positions, the tread sits on top of a flexible web of spokes that run across the wheel, and then adhered to the surface of the wheel itself.
“When tires don’t need to be filled with air, this essentially erases the downtime associated with a flat tire, improving safety and making mobility more efficient,” said Jon Kimpel, executive director – new mobility solution engineering.
While trailers account for about 20% of commercial tire purchases, they are also the source of about 40% of tire failures, he noted.
It’s not the manufacturer’s first experiment with airless tires. One earlier concept tire was for bicycles. But a commercial application is something else entirely.
“It’s not easy to do from a technical standpoint,” Kimpel said. “To go to 5,000 lb. and 75 mph, that this one’s designed for, that’s a big jump.”
The selected materials, for example, will need to handle big temperature differences and also incorporate reinforcements for the web and tread band. But the tread itself is consistent with Bridgestone’s Ecopia tires, and it’s designed to work in a traditional dual wheel assembly.
“The intent is it will last as long as a pneumatic tire that is always properly inflated,” Kimpel added.
Validation testing is ongoing, and track testing will begin this year, although he said commercialization of an airless tire is still years away.