A “tire without a tire”. This is how the new prototype, developed by Goodyear to replace our traditional air-inflated tires, can be defined. Exclusively in France, journalists from thecar magazine and several other media were able to try out this new concept during a session organized by the manufacturer. According to their first feedback at the Luxembourg circuit, airless tires have many flaws.
Originally developed to reduce production and maintenance costs, an airless tire has the great advantage that it is inherently puncture-proof. Not only Goodyear has dealt with it, the French Michelin has also been developing its own prototypes since 2019. At Bridgestone in Japan, the airless tire is currently limited to bicycles. The first line of products was launched at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Goodyear’s first glimpse of airless tires came last May – although an initial patent was filed as early as 1982. It is important to note that the technology does not yet have a launch date and that a commercial launch is not expected before 2025. The feedback from journalists in this article should therefore be integrated into its development context.
Discomfort and lack of support
The design of an airless tire is both very simple and very technical. It consists of thin more or less rigid composite sipes and a flat tread. To replace the air, manufacturers must develop both high enough rigidity with the slats to replace the air and enough flexibility to ensure some comfort and support the work of the shock absorbers.
The journalist Christophe Congrega complained that the design of the tire can be felt on the ground from the first meterscar magazine. “The sipes act like so many fairly rigid spokes that transmit the tread’s contact with the road more than it filters it.”, he wrote. The missing sidewall, which rounds conventional tires, would also be a problem in corners. Comparing the handling to that of a racing car, he added that the tire lacked grip in corners, “to the point that it feels like driving in the rain”.
Acoustically, too, the lack of comfort is reflected in very high road noise along with “strong vibrations”. At other manufacturers such as Continental, the development of airless tires is stagnating. No doubt, as noted in an article in Union, that’s what an engineer said “The airless tire causes problems in terms of suspension and noise. It’s not a viable solution and I don’t expect it to be.”
But the big problem, especially with the advent of electric cars, would be the preponderance of airless tires. Overall, the wheel would be 50% heavier, according to Goodyear engineers present at the event. To find out more, we recommend reading their full review, which also includes a reflection on the other possible uses for such tires in the current situation.