Wouldn’t it be great to never get a puncture and never have to jack your car up to change the spare?
Well we are going to tell you about a new innovation that just maybe will make that possible, but before we do, let’s take a brief look at how the tyres we drive on have got where they are today.
We accept technology brings us new inventions and alternatives to the way things in our lives work, but for some reason, with the exception of a few tweaks, we expect other things to remain exactly as we’ve always known them and tyres are just one such thing.
For hundreds of years now, wheels have had tyres. Originally, the local wheelwright forged bands of steel around the wooden cart wheels of carriages and wagons, which “tied” the spokes of the wheel together and this was known at the “tyre” and despite rubber replacing the steel, the name didn’t change, so tyres it was and tyres it still is.
For the past 150 years, tyres have pretty much been black and made of some kind of rubber and whilst for a good time they were solid rubber, the biggest change came in around 1840 when Scot “Robert William Thomson” registered his patent for a pneumatic tyre, although it was another Scotsman, a veterinary surgeon “John Boyd Dunlop” who generally takes the credit as the first person to actually start production of ‘inflatable rubber bike tyres’ in the late 1880’s and the tyre as we know it today was born.
For sure, solid tyres still hung around for some time and even up to the Second World War, some trucks still ran on solid tyres, but it is the pneumatic tyre that changed the entire game and over the years the casing of these tyres has evolved with the first breakthrough being the use of rubberised cords laid parallel to each other which were pressed into the rubber. Each ply of cord was separated from the next by its rubber coating and this was known as a cross ply tyre.
Evolution continued and in some cases, the rubberised cords were replaced by steel cords to add strength and to help the tyre run cooler, but the next big change came in 1947 when the “radial” tyre was invented and that my friends is pretty much what we have now.
There have been many developments in the tread patterns and compounds of the materials used in the construction of tyres for our cars so that they last longer, grip the road better, reduce braking distances, clear standing water more easily, are quieter on the road and even reduce the rolling resistance of the tyre to give us better mpg.
The one consistent thing though is that modern tyres provide their comfortable ride by being inflated with pressurised air. Originally, the air was kept inside the tyre by use of a separate inner tube, but later, new wheel rims were invented which allowed the bead of the tyre to seal securely against the rim, once inflated and under pressure, the tyre stayed where it was put, didn’t leak, was very easy to remove and provided superb reliability.
Nowadays many cars don’t even come with a spare wheel, or its only available at extra cost, preferring to supply the car from new with a tube of special sealant that you inject into the tyre when you get a puncture and a little air compressor, so that you can blow the tyre back up. Some cars are fitted with what’s called “run-flat” tyres and whilst that sounds pretty attractive, not all drivers like them as they provide a harder ride and are more expensive to replace.
The one consistent in all of this is that what ever tyres your car is fitted with, if you run over a sharp object, you get a puncture and if that puncture is in the wrong place on your tyre, you are talking a new replacement and that could cost hundreds of pounds.
Just how good would it be to have a tyre on your car that couldn’t get a puncture!
So, this is where Bridgestone’s new idea comes in as they are busy developing a new non-pneumatic, or airless, concept tyre that Bridgestone says will be completely resistant to punctures. The new tyre is going to do away with the air-filled bag (as it were) in favour of a much cooler thermoplastic resin spoke structure along the inner sides of the tyres, which gives it the same properties as a tyre filled with pressurised gas. But as it’s airless, there’s no risk of puncture — nails, glass, spears and barbs from errant stingrays are simply shrugged off.
Bridgestone says this concept tyre has numerous benefits. Not only will they eliminate the need to stand out in the freezing cold trying to figure out how a jack works, they’ll also mean you needn’t carry a spare, so vehicles will be lighter, more fuel efficient and — in some cases — more spacious. As a bonus, the resin used inside the tyres is 100 per cent recyclable, so — unlike ordinary tyres — they shouldn’t end up on landfill sites.
Shame we cant show you a picture of the proposed tyre, because it is a strange looking thing indeed and whilst this is still a concept, Bridgestone will know that if they can pull this off that they will have stolen a march on every other tyre maker and they will sell them in bucket loads, although you do kind of feel that as Bridgestone makes its money out of selling you and me tyres, then why would they want to reduce their present replacement tyre market, it would be like turkeys voting for Xmas?