Cars have evolved drastically over the last decade- mainly due to the advancements in technology. But there is one area which I think could use a bit more progress. We still continue to use the same old tyres that we’ve been using for decades. Yes, we’ve seen some advancements, such as run-flat tyres that let you drive for a few extra miles even if hit a nail or two but the question is, why is this still a problem?
We might have found an answer to this, thanks to Bridgestone’s Air Free Concept Tire that was originally revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show and shown again at the Paris Motor Show. Let me show you what this new concept of a tyre looks like before explaining what it does.
Instead of an air-filled tube, the Air Free Concept Tire has an array of shock-absorbing resin bands supporting the weight of the vehicle along with an airless and replaceable tread made of solid rubber. This completely avoids situations where your tyre is punctured or the need to refill air in your tyre for maintenance purposes. But that’s not all- it gets better.
The spoke structure is made from thermoplastic resin*1 and, along with the rubber in the tread portion, the materials used in these tyres are fully recyclable. Bridgestone is pursuing this technological development with the aim of achieving a “cradle to cradle” process that proactively maximises the cyclical use of resources from worn tyres into new tyres and the use of recyclable resources.
You’re probably wondering why we haven’t seen these tyres equipped on cards already. The reason is that while Bridgestone has found a solution that works, it’s still isn’t ideal for driving comfort. At the moment, these tyres are too stiff when you’re turning the wheels. However, Bridgestone is confident that it will be able to address this in the upcoming prototypes due in the next few years.
Another challenge that Bridgestone needs to address is making sure these new tyres work across different kinds of weather conditions and terrains. Taking the UAE as an example, there are plenty of times when we need to drive across large sandy areas. And occasionally, we have a good outburst of rain that causes roads to flood. These tyres need to work well in such conditions as well as other natural calamities such as snow-storms in different parts of the world.
Outside the technical aspect, the success of such tyres in the consumer space really depends on two things- pricing and lastability. Like any new technology, I’m sure these tires will be on the higher side when it comes to pricing but they need to last at least as long as our current tyres. While we don’t have any info on either of the two, it’s a given that technology continues to fall in price and improve in reliability.