From the wheels of nasa's Moon rover to Michelin's T wheel .
We've seen tires that don't need air for decades .
We've even seen prototypes for everyday cars that roll over sharp nails with ease .
So why do companies like Michelin and Goodyear say anywhere from 2024 to 2030 is the soonest these products will be ready to buy .
What is taking so long for airless tires to hit the shelves .
It's one thing to run around the lunar surface for a couple of miles and you know , a few hours here on earth , it is much more difficult than you'd expect to replace pneumatic tires .
Pneumatic means anything that uses air pressure .
That's why you'll hear airless tires like the T wheel referred to as non pneumatic .
They're gonna have to come up with the first of all , with the way to design them , then they have to manufacture them , dealing both with cost and durability and , and certainly people are not going to be happy if these airless tires wind up , not lasting very long , what could cause them to wear so easily as tires roll , they constantly compress and then decompress due to the weight of the car going 70 MPH down the highway .
This happens about 1000 times per minute and generates a lot of heat .
Luckily , air allows heat to disperse easily .
Typical pneumatic tires can last for around 60,000 miles if you don't hit a nail .
But if you replace air with more material , the potential for heat to build up and tires to wear much faster grows exponentially .
The reality is when a tire rolls down the road , it does generate a lot of heat and heat is one of the big enemies of a rubber pneumatic tire .
If they can make the spokes or the supporting elements in an airless tire able to handle the compression pressures , all the deformation and all the impacts , they should be able to keep it relatively cool .
Another concern is efficiency .
This constant deformation of your tires increases rolling resistance or the energy your car needs to send them to keep rolling .
While pneumatic tires waste some of that energy as heat , they can easily be inflated more to reduce friction against the road .
Airless tires that replace lightweight air with heavier materials need to be perfectly designed .
Or else drivers will need much more fuel to keep rolling .
But as improvements in design continue like eliminating the need for a wheel , airless tires could actually become the more efficient option .
It's basically four components , the tread , which is that part of that's made of the , the rubber and other polymers .
Then from there , you have what's called the sheer band and the shear band is very close to the the belt package on a radio tire .
But now from there is this connecting web structure that you see that's really new to us that's made of thermal plastics .
So then the fourth component is simply the hub and the hub is where , of course , that web structure connects in and that's what's going to connect into the axle of the vehicle .
You do have to also recognize you don't have materials in the tire to keep the air in .
You are replacing them with new materials , those thermoplastics , which we can do some further engineering on and potentially , you know , manage that trade off differently no matter how durable or fuel efficient airless tires become the number one factor in making any new car technology available to the masses is safety .
One is the amount of load that the tire has to carry for its size .
The second thing is how fast you can go and that tire is going to remain durable for a long period of time of running at that speed .
And that's why you see the evolution in the applications that we've been working on starts with a low speed , low load , a zero turn mower .
We move to an autonomous shuttle .
Why an autonomous shuttle has the load of a vehicle like a car but only goes made 35 MPH .
So it's slow speed still as a company that makes over 150 million tires a year .
Goodyear claiming its airless tires won't be road ready until 2030 .
Seems a bit long to wait unless they were designed to last virtually forever .
Well , the 2 30 date actually coincides with our bold goal around having a tire that's made of completely sustainable materials as well as is maintenance free when you think of maintenance free , especially think of electric vehicles and the fact that they're not going to need much maintenance up to say 30,000 miles today .
When what triggers a lot of maintenance on your tires is the need for oil changes .
And so when people go in for an oil change , what happens they get the the air pressure checked topped off if needed as well as rotation of tires and that makes tires of course last longer because they're properly maintained and the sustainability pieces .
One thing to keep in mind is the materials of these thermal plastics can be recycled .
You can claim those and use those directly after you reprocess them into the next non pneumatic today .
For tires .
You can't do that .
They are reused at end of life but not in four like application .
You can't take a tire at end of life , reprocess it and directly use it in the next tire .
Goodyear's testing of its current airless prototype on autonomous shuttles and delivery carts isn't just for show either airless tires could be the key to getting self-driving vehicles on the road faster .
So 60% of roadside incidents , let's say , for commercial trucks , as one example are due to tires .
So what happens is a human who's driving that vehicle takes action to get it taken care of .
Well , who's going to do that in an autonomous driven vehicle ?
That's a difficult thing to train an autonomous driving system to deal with .
So once again , if you could get rid of that being one of the use cases that autonomous vehicle developers even have to contemplate by putting in a tire that won't instantaneously lose air .
You could unlock autonomy potentially sooner .