The mobility landscape is changing and we are experiencing a new way of getting around. With car-sharing systems, autonomous vehicles and alternative fuels offering solutions for different scenarios, a lot will change in the coming years. Goodyear is reacting to these changes and heralding a new era of mobility. Just as traffic is being reinvented, it's about time tires were reinvented too. That's why Goodyear is developing a non-pneumatic tire that will support the future of multimodal transport while enhancing sustainability. While air-filled tires will always have their place, combined solutions for diverse applications will also be in demand. For example, autonomous vehicles may benefit from the maintenance-free nature of an airless tire, while other vehicles may still prefer the traditional tire.
What are non-pneumatic tires?
Put simply, a non-pneumatic tire is a tire that does not use air. Goodyear non-pneumatic tires consist of three components: the shear band – including the tread, the tie bar and the wheel. The tie bar makes all the difference here as this structure combined with the shear band supports the weight of the vehicle and the tyre enables a comfortable driving experience.
Michael Rachita, Goodyear's senior program manager for airless tires explains: “The non-pneumatic tire in this case is a technical construction, but it is not rigid. Imagine the wheel of a train, it's steel and heavy, that's also an airless tire; or a rubber ring shod on a wooden wagon wheel is also a type of airless tire “What we have developed, however, is a special product that absorbs the weight of the vehicle through tension. This is the only way to achieve the comfort of an air-filled tire.”
Airless tires offer a number of benefits, including:
- Maintenance-free operation
- Increased comfort with heavy loads
In a world where autonomous vehicles are becoming more common and many cities are offering Transport-as-a-Service (TaaS) strategies, a maintenance-free tire is of great importance. With a deflated tire set, there is no need to check the pressure, eliminating the need for regular monitoring. In addition, the structure of the Goodyear non-pneumatic tire means a vehicle can keep going - even if damage occurs.
"Redundancies are important," says Rachita. “Autonomous shuttles, for example, have LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and GPS, and if one of those should fail, they can fall back to optical cameras. This means there are a number of backup systems in place to ensure the vehicle can do its job well. If tire performance depends on air pressure, the tire has no security in the event of damage. In the event of rapid air loss or tire damage, the vehicle stops and cannot continue.”
However, a non-pneumatic tire has these failsafes. Due to its structure of numerous connecting struts, the tire can continue to function normally even if damaged. Rachita explains, “The airless structure means that even if the tire were to lose a set of tie bars, it could go on for many miles without concern.” Ride comfort is just as important. While one might assume that a deflated tire would have a harder ride, that is not the case.
What drives this innovation?
The driving force behind this innovation is the Goodyear vision of a sustainable future with multimodal transport forms and different vehicles. Pneumatic tires are not going away any time soon, but an airless model offers a number of new possibilities. As mobility changes rapidly, technological advances affect various elements of a vehicle, including the tyres.
As both conventional cars and car-sharing services as well as autonomous vehicles will potentially share the road, airless tires can increase uptime, performance and comfort. Just like autonomous shuttles operating in a small, specific area — say, a city center — Goodyear designed its airless tires to meet a specific need. “The higher performance in the transport space increases uptime, which means fleets are always on the move,” says Rachita.
While uptime is important, it's not the only area driving Goodyear's non-pneumatic tire efforts. “There is also a sustainability aspect,” Rachita continues. "It's not just about the performance. Unfortunately, many conventional tires are discarded early, e.g. B. because of a flat tire or problems that could have been avoided, such. E.g. under-inflation that has not been regulated.” In contrast, non-pneumatic tires are not phased out due to such issues, thereby reducing tire-related waste.
The development process
Goodyear is aiming for US approval of this technology, but that goal is several years away as the company works on further technical iterations of its airless tires. Testing its tires on autonomous vehicles and last-mile delivery robots gives Goodyear the opportunity to continuously refine design, materials and manufacturing processes. As the field of e-mobility changes and multimodal modes of transport become more common, this offers the chance to test the tires in completely new environments.
“Goodyear's development of non-pneumatic tires is driven by the ambitious goal of bringing the first 2030 percent sustainable materials and maintenance-free tire to market by 100,” explains Rachita. While pneumatic tires will continue to play an important role in the future, developing new tires for specific mobility applications is the next step for the automotive industry. Goodyear non-pneumatic tires offer a sustainable solution that will contribute to our future mobility. Photo credit: Goodyear
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