They probably won’t be coming to cars anytime soon, but never say never.
Tires are one of those things people take for granted in every day motoring. Even race car drivers – literally living their lives on the edge of grip – often skip over tires without a second thought. Of all the components in a vehicle, nothing matters more than tires. They are the connection between horsepower and motion; without them you won’t move, and if you should lose them in while in motion, you’ll certainly stop. When and where that takes place, not to mention the orientation of your car, are completely out of your hands.
So when something different comes along – even when it’s for bicycles – it’s a big deal. Called the Air Free Concept from Bridgestone, this new tire design uses a unique structure of spokes behind the tread. The tire manufacturer says resins used to create the spokes and rubber “help realize more efficient use of resources.”
We’re not entirely sure what that means, but it likely has to do with movement in conventional tires versus a setup like this. Tires by nature are designed to flex and bulge as forces are thrust upon them. Each bit of tire movement, however, takes energy that could be better used elsewhere.
Such airless setups aren’t necessarily new technology. We’ve seen plenty of concept wheels that feature honeycomb-type structures; Bridgestone itself has displayed airless vehicle tires in the past utilizing similar designs. The obvious advantage is that you’ll never get a flat, but longevity and practicality remain issues. The same flexibility we mentioned earlier that robs energy? It also helps deliver a more comfortable ride.
With the Air Free Concept, Bridgestone says it hopes to have this tire on the market for purchase in 2019. The company also says it will be looking at ways to adapt this technology for other types of tires.