Polaris, a world leader in off-road vehicles, recently acquired non-pneumatic tire [NPT] startup Resilient Technologies, and is now supplying Polaris ATVs, equipped with airless tires, to the US Military.
Various manufacturers have been investigating NPT technology, including leading tire manufacturers Bridgestone and Yokohama, but we haven’t seen them get much beyond low-speed unregulated applications. Bridgestone’s Tweel, for TireWheel, is the only airless tire on the market and is currently only available for construction applications, having proven to be reliable and nigh-indestructible.
Resilient Technologies, an NPT startup that was recently acquired by Polaris, a world leader in off-road vehicles, has developed something a little faster, but still hasn’t ventured into regulated automotive markets. One of Polaris’ contracts includes the Polaris ATVs with Resilient Technologies airless tires, to be supplied to the US Military.
The advantage for the airless tire, in military applications, is they do not require air pressure, which means that, even embedded with a railroad spike for 1,000 miles, the rider of the Polaris ATV only experienced a slight vibration. The airless tire then went on to 5,000mi when the tread finally wore out.
Of course, in the military, mobility can mean life or death but what about civilian applications? Since airless tires do not have air pressure, what kind of standard would be required to install them on conventional vehicles? It will likely be a few years before automakers can move into the automotive market, but the results could be stunning, if only to eliminate the age-old problem of proper air pressure and fuel economy.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one psi drop in air pressure equals at least a 0.3% drop in fuel economy. The lower the pressure goes, that number only climbs higher. Additionally, under-inflated tires are extremely unsafe, which is why all vehicles are now required to be equipped with tire-pressure monitoring technology. Airless tires could effectively eliminate both fuel economy and safety concerns.
Image © Resilient Technologies