What are airless tyres? Technology, durability and future prospects
Although tyres have advanced significantly since the invention of the automobile, their fundamental design has stayed the same: they are rubber donuts filled with air or, in recent times, nitrogen.
The car is supported by conventional high-pressure pneumatic tyres, which also offer the traction and grip necessary for driving safely. However, airless tyres, also referred to as non-pneumatic tyres or flat-free tyres, are a cutting-edge new design that eliminates the need to maintain tire inflation.
Run-flat tyres should not be confused with airless tyres. In spite of being deflated following a puncture, these air-filled tyres with additional sidewall reinforcement can travel for about 50 miles at a top speed of 50 mph.
Airless “flat-free” tyres get their name from the fact that they are never inflated with air and can never develop a puncture. Airless tyres are currently being tested and used on large passenger vehicles, but they have only recently become common on smaller vehicles like ride-on lawnmowers and motorized golf carts.
The majority of airless tire designs use sturdy spokes that are interlaced or mesh-like structures that encircle the wheel and can flex and change shape as the vehicle drives and travels over bumps. Before airless tyres are widely available to consumers, there is still a lot research and testing to be done.
However, people have speculated that Michelin could introduce its Uptis (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System), produced with a high-strength resin embedded with fibreglass, as early as 2024. Uptis tyres are expected to debut in the East Asian market, where shoddy roads make their durability a significant advantage.