Airless Tires: How They Work

Aug 23, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

Many people aren’t even aware that airless tires are available, but there are options from multiple manufacturers that offer certain advantages over traditional tires. If you are considering these tires, also known as Non-Pneumatic Tires or NPT, you will want to know a few important things, including how they work, which companies produce them, and which motor vehicles are suited for airless tires.  

How They Work


Bridgestone Tires

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of airless tires, you will want to know how they work before you can even consider using them. The original airless tire was created by Michelin in 2005. The integrated tire and wheel structure, or “Tweel,” was made from a thin tread band of rubber reinforced by a belt made of composite plastic and then supported with V-shaped polyurethane spokes. New models from all manufacturers developed from this concept, and each of them has an eye-catching design with multiple lines forming complex patterns that provide the same support you get from the air in pneumatic tires. While the first Michelin Tweel wasn’t ready for immediate use on cars and trucks, it is now used on lawn mowers and skid steer loaders while similar tires are now used on other heavy machinery and bicycles.

Why to Go with Airless Tires


Hankook Tire

Airless tires are a huge convenience, as you never have to worry about a flat tire ever again. Not only are they more durable but even if an NPT is punctured by a random object, there is no air that will leak. That means that even if you run over something in the road, you don’t have to wonder if you will get a flat, eliminating the need to carry a spare or bicycle pump. Compared to traditional pneumatic tires, airless options are still in development, and different models offer different advantages. The simple structure of the Bridgestone NPT offers lower rolling resistance and reduced emissions. In many cases, airless tires use recyclable materials, making them environmentally friendly, since you can reuse every part instead of throwing a used tire in the dumpster. Keep in mind that, like all inventions, airless tires do have some disadvantages. Certain models have a higher rolling resistance or provide less suspension, leading to a slightly more uncomfortable ride.

Availability and Manufacturers


Polaris

The most popular option for airless tires is still probably Michelin. It has had plenty of time to perfect the technique behind modern airless tires. The Tweel has become an effective alternative to pneumatic tires on heavy machinery and personal riding lawnmowers, reducing maintenance, downtime, and replacement costs. If you have an ATV, Polaris “Terrainarmor” NPTs are based on their indestructible military tires for the US Army. Hankook introduced the “iFlex” in 2013 and, while it is still in development, the innovative tire promises lightweight durability and additional shock absorbency. Hankooks has indictated that they will release iFlex in the near future. If you have a bicycle, there are multiple vendors that now offer competitive airless tires that are perfect for longer rides and eliminate the need to carry a puncture kit. At the moment, you may be still be limited in airless tire options depending on how you want to use them. They are primarily used on heavy equipment or bicycles since they are simple to install and capable of carrying more weight than traditional tires. Their ability to resist punctures makes them incredibly useful in rugged activities on ATVs. You might want to consider these cutting-edge tires for one of these activities, saving you time and money in the future.

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