Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone announced today it has developed a non-pneumatic (i.e., airless) concept tire that could prove to be a safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional tires in the future.
Not only is the tire 100 percent recyclable but the unique structure of the spokes layered inside eliminate the need to maintain optimal air pressure. However, this is not to assume that any fuel savings would be realized if widespread use of such a tire was adopted. Another advantage, and perhaps the most important is that the non-pneumatic tire increases safety as the risk of punctures potentially causing a fatal collision is also eliminated.
Although we've seen this type of wheel before with the Michelin Tweel and Resilient Technologies' honeycomb design, Bridgestone states in a press release, "previously such concept tires have been impractical to produce for the mass market. Bridgestone developed this technology with the aim of practical implementation."
Despite all of its advantages, many questions remain. Is the non-pneumatic tire a direct replacement for conventional tires without making changes to chassis and suspenion design? Is the non-pneumatic tire applicable to high-performance driving? How about appearances? Will the spokes be covered or exposed on the sidewalls as seen in the photos? Will consumers accept its looks? Will the structural integrity of the spokes deteriorate over time?
Hopefully, Bridgestone will address these questions in due time, but until then, we remain intrigued.