From the time automobiles were created and pushed into the public eye, tires have been using rubber. Called a pneumatic tire, it serves drivers on the road and gets filled with air to cushion the vehicle and allow for smooth handling. However, many tire makers have created new designs for the airless tire.
Airless tires have been around for many years and are primarily used on golf carts, riding lawnmowers, backhoes, and wheelchairs.
It is important to understand what the airless tire is and why you might use it instead of traditional tires for your vehicle. It can also be helpful to understand what the pneumatic tire is and how the two are different.
While many tire-makers are focused on airless tires and using them for vehicles, Michelin created the Tweel in 2005. The Tweel (the name is a mixture of tire and wheel) is so named because it doesn’t include a traditional wheel hub and assembly. Michelin has perfected the tweel, and it can be installed on vehicles instead of traditional pneumatic tires.
What Is an Airless Tire?
The wheel hub assembly of the airless tire is slightly different. The inner hub goes on the axle, which has many polyurethane spokes coming from the wheel hub. A shear band goes across the spokes, which forms the outer edge of your tire (what touches the road). The shear band’s tension and strength replace the air pressure of pneumatic tires. The tread goes on the shear band.
The spokes work to absorb the impact of the road just as air pressure does in traditional tires. The shear bands are designed to deform and reform when the spokes bend and quickly retake their shape. The tread also deforms and goes back to form, and the wheel rolls over the ground.
Tire-makers can make these airless tires with a variety of tensions to perform better, provide a smooth ride, and do other things.
An air-filled tire, sometimes called a pneumatic tire, has an airtight inner core that is filled with pressurized air. The tread, which can be reinforced with steel and other materials, covers the inner core and is what makes contact with the road. The inside pressure of the tire is more than the atmospheric air pressure, which allows the tire to stay inflated with the vehicle’s weight on it. The air pressure gives more resistance from forces that want to deform the tire, such as rocks and bumps, but it also provides a cushioning effect when the tire hits potholes and bumps.
Air-filled tires have some drawbacks. For one, if the pneumatic tire gets punctured, it results in a total failure of the tire. Plus, a blowout during high speeds can cause significant injury and vehicle damage if you crash.
Pneumatic tires can also have air pressure variations, which can change the way the vehicle handles. For example, if all the tires should be filled to 30 psi and one is only filled to 28 psi, it results in an imbalance. The driver may not feel anything, but the wheels, axles, and tires all work at a different pace, which puts more wear and tear on the tires, wheels, and vehicle. Along with such, air-filled tires can be more susceptible to temperature changes, which can change the internal pressure of the tire.
While the consumer market for airless tires isn’t high right now, the Military has been using airless tires in some situations for years. The primary issue for the military is that the tires can get shot by gunfire or punctured from shrapnel during an explosion.