By Roger Marble
Are airless tires a reality or just a pipe dream for RV owners?
A friend recently sent me a copy of an article from the Akron, Ohio, daily paper The Beacon Journal. I am in Colorado, ending a 3-week-long working (giving tire seminars) trip. My wife and I were also celebrating our 37th anniversary on a sightseeing vacation. So I missed the article on “airless” tires.
Wait! What do they mean “airless”? Could we soon be absolved of needing TPMS in our wheels? What will I write about if I can’t keep complaining about people not using the proper inflation?
Airless tires sound too good to be true
Well, it is true … sort of. It appears that the latest effort from Goodyear to develop a reliable airless tire is aimed at some “self-driving” vehicles that can transport goods and maybe even people around a small area of a town or city.
While air-filled “pneumatic” tires have been around since 1847, the background on “airless tires” is many decades old. Many tire companies are trying to be the first to crack the code and present a reliable tire that can function like a regular tire when inflated with air. So far everyone seems to run into the same wall of limited speed or limited durability. While Goodyear hasn’t released any specifics, visually their latest effort “resembles similar products being tested by other companies in its open-spoke design and flat tread.” This is according to the picture (above) from the press release and an article in Rubber & Plastics News.
There are many “airless” tires already in use today. In fact, in 1972, I worked on the Flat-Proof tires for the then-brand-new Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. These were for their passenger transfer system of driverless vehicles that circulated the airport. The tires had no air inflation but were filled with a heavy duty “foam rubber.” Other applications of airless tires include lawn mowers and numerous construction vehicles.
If you wanted, you could order some airless tires today for your forklift truck. You would never need to add air or worry about the tires being punctured and going flat.
Significant restrictions on operation speed
One thing that is almost universal with these applications is that they all have significant restrictions on operation speed. This limit is usually below 20 mph. If operation at this speed is required, the distance traveled or even the roadway used must be strictly controlled.
So, it looks like we RV folks need to continue to wait for the scientific breakthrough that is needed to put tires on our cars, trucks, trailers and RVs that no longer need air inflation to carry the load.
Have a tire question? Sign up for Roger Marble’s new Facebook Group: RV tire news, information and discussion, hosted by RVtravel.com and moderated by Roger. He’ll be happy to help you.