This is it: the future, according to Bridgestone. A recyclable, airless tyre that needs no maintenance and won’t ever puncture.
That’s largely because you need something filled with air for it to get a puncture. And the more observant of you will notice that this AirFree tyre isn’t filled with air. Instead, there’s a fretwork of recyclable thermoplastic spokes supporting the weight of the car, wapped in a rubber contact section with extremely low rolling resistance.
There are but two small problems. Firstly, the AirFree is just a concept, so you can’t buy it. Secondly, it’s only managed a top speed of 60km/h on the weird, lightweight electro thing in the pictures.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing. Michelin had a go with the ‘Tweel’ (geddit?) - a similarly airless affair that had a reinforced ‘tread band’ connected to a central hub by flexible polyurethane spokes. But it was plagued by overheating problems at higher speeds, and has yet to reach production. Which explains why similar designs have only made it onto quad bikes.
STORY Matthew Jones