With climate change quickly become an inevitable reality, governments, industries and investors are become more and more concerned with the environmental impact of their actions – and they well should be. Increased carbon emissions are harming the environment at an alarming pace, and contributing to this is the auto industry, historically notorious for its enormous waste production. Recently, the tire manufacturing unit of the auto industry has decided to take a step forward, toying with the idea of a tire manufacturing process and product that will cause less damage to the environment by producers and consumers alike. Enter airless tires.
Even though this concept has been around since 2005, it was only in early 2015 that widespread production has made these tires available to the public consumers. This concept was pioneered by tire giant Michelin. In 2015, manufacturer Hankook announced that they too have been working on an airless tire design that would hit the consumer market very soon.
How do these tires work? Bridgestone, another manufacturer developing this concept, claims that their ties feature a “unique spoke structure designed to support the weight of a vehicle, effectively eliminating the need to periodically refill the tires with air.” Airless tires are often used in lawnmowers and golf carts, but have only recently been considered as an alternate reality for regular four-wheel vehicles.
Airless tires are a major step forward in terms of waste reduction. According to Bridgestone, in the same article linked above, “No part of a non-pneumatic tire ever needs to go in the garbage.” This idea goes hand-in-hand with Bridgestone’s effort to create a “cradle-to-cradle” system in which all tires are first recycled and then factory-refashioned into new tires. Consider the amount of waste that would be reduced via such a process.
Secondly, these tires promise reduced carbon emissions. Here is a simplified version of how airless tires will contribute to decreased energy loss overall:
Due to the simpler structure of airless tires, there are fewer changes in shape as the tires roll. The energy loss from tires is felt by the changes in shape, and so with decreased changes comes decreased energy loss overall.This is because the engine then has to work less to provide the same results, reducing emissions.
In terms of production, Hankook claims that the production of airless tires is halved from the production of regular pneumatic tires. Thus, the emissions left behind from the manufacturing on regular tires as opposed to recyclable airless tires is reduced by about 50%.
Airless tires seem to revolutionize the tire manufacturing industry, combating some of the hazards associated with both production and consumption components of the industry. With their increased functionality and better impact on the environment, the auto industry would do well to develop more concepts like this.