Since the Scottish inventor Robert Thomson patented pneumatic tires in 1845, they have become standard on every vehicle with two, four or 18 wheels. Pneumatic tires are now so durable that many drivers never even bother to check their air pressure. But the tires still have weaknesses, not least of which is the tendency to go flat.
Engineers at Bridgestone say their Airless Concept Tire could eliminate flats for good. The tire consists of a band of rubber tread wrapped around a dense web of thermoplastic spokes that radiate from a central aluminum wheel. To mimic the firm, springy feel of a pneumatic tire, engineers had to make the spokes stiff enough to avoid vibration (which wastes energy) yet soft enough to provide a comfortable ride. Guided by computer models, they wove the spokes into a lattice pattern that can bear the weight of the vehicle but will still give when the tire rolls over obstacles. Bridgestone says its design reduces rolling resistance, thus saving fuel. The tires are also easier to recycle: Unlike rubber, thermoplastic can easily be melted and remolded.
Bridgestone engineers are currently testing eight-inch-diameter airless tires for low-speed industrial applications such as carts and forklifts and developing a larger test version for passenger cars, but plenty of challenges remain. The engineers have to ensure that the tires are durable in extreme heat and cold. They will have to find a way to keep rocks, mud and snow from collecting in the spokes, which could unbalance the tire. Then the company must convince drivers to accept them. Not surprisingly, Bridgestone won't say when the tires might appear in showrooms. But if they do reach the market, drivers could save fuel, never again change a flat, and start cutting down the heap of 300 million pneumatic tires that are scrapped in the U.S. every year.
This tire will NEVER work for us here in the north country. Snow will get in those spokes, and you'll not want that.
Also can you guess what the cost of these will be - I'd guess WAY more than a normal tire.
None for me thanks. Doesn't seem to be good enough to handle our winters!
I remember seeing something similar around 3 or 4 years ago. But I don't remember that tire being hollow. I'm sure some kind filling or outer skin will be added to the design during testing.
Love, Peace & Soul
These tires are pretty. I suppose required maintenance, will be to ensure dirt stays out of the open hollow areas of the tire. While it may work for low rpms, I wonder how they handle at high rpms and curves?
I used a similar concept from Michelin in my 2004 concept car "Bowser" (www.bowser.nl/technology/). They were called the 'tweels'. An explanatory video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqRJ9GfIJtI
I think we've seen these tires about once a year as something 'new' for I dont know how long. to keep the dirt out of the spokes you just need a cover, not sure how long it will take for them for figure that out.
Iammersch got it.. "Tweels" and they made an ungodly annoying noise as they rolled. As far as keeping them free from dirt,snow,mud,etc is simple, a cloth covering fastened on the inside diameter of the wheel. This will remain the flex, be breatheable, and replaceable. It will keep out rocks and snow (it may cake up in really nasty conditions, but any rim that is open will do this, so it's not THAT big of a deal) This is a great idea that will make blowouts WAY safer!
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
I certainly hope these things are up to the task. There is no mention of legal highway driving, much less more energetic recreational driving.
Doc777, you lack vision, please delete your account.
Everyone else, heck yah these wheels looks so cool, I can't wait to be the first one with a set on my ride :) I hope they can find a way to keep the dirt out and the noise level down without covering up the inner spokes because they look great.
Interesting side effect, as these new tires were being demonstrated at slow speeds, all the observers fell into a hypnotic trance, woooooo....
I dislike all the waste rubber that ends up in the landfill. Hey Bridgestone make them faster please. I want to quickly replace my pneumatic tires with these ones. Obviously slap covers on them too. I also dislike checking tire pressure especially in winter. Sounds like it's a good step towards green tech tires though.
A similar system has been showed by Michelin during the 90's…
These tires will not be successful in the marketplace until they are:
1) Presented in a form factor identical to traditional tires
2) Available at a comparable cost to pneumatics
3) Endorsed by a celebrity
Obviously, all they will need to do is cover the sides and they will look like current tires, and keep debris out of the spokes. I don't understand why the above comments are so oblivious to this obvious next step. The photos are that of prototypes meant to show off the inner-workings. Use your brains, people.
I wonder how these tires would operate when you have the weight of an obese, ugly assed, Euro trash on 'em.
Instead of having separate tread and sidewalls, regular rubber tread and a cloth cover... just encase the internal structure in external rubber, identical to but thinner, much thinner than the tread-wall part.
The culture of hawt wheels in da hood and barrio will suffer, though....
I see no obvious reason that the spokes can't be covered...
I think these are great!
do they come with white walls?
I wonder what would happen if you run over something on the road, hit a pit in the road or run up on a curb. Air filled tires are usually forgiving in these situations. So hopefully the spokes will be too. I like it! And I wants it. :-)
When I saw this, I wondered - would it be possible to 3d print something like this. It is plastic and the rubber elements could probably work too. Thoughts?