Could Bridgestone's air-free commercial truck tire be a reality?

Could an air-free commercial truck tire be a reality?

What if you didn’t have to worry about inflation at all? What if your tires were ready to roll any time?

Truck tire management is a full-time job. Ensuring that they’re rolling correctly inflated is the best way you can ensure that you’re hitting your tire cost per mile expectations and setting yourself up to reap the retread lifecycle of the casing. It’s a daily battle, but what if it didn’t have to be? What if you didn’t have to worry about inflation at all? What if your tires were ready to roll any time? Those are the types of questions Bridgestone’s air-free commercial truck tire concept raises.

Okay, so those are just a few of the questions that come to mind because I hurled a handful of others at Jon Kimpel, Bridgestone executive director of new mobility solutions engineering, standing in front of the cool concept tire in Bridgestone’s booth at the 2020 TMC Annual Meeting and Exhibition. Here’s what he had to say.

Fleet Equipment (FE): Take me through what we’re looking at here.

Kimpel: This is our air-free commercial tire concept for use in high-speed, long-haul applications. It’s made of three different components. We have the metal wheel, a web structure and then a reinforced tread band on the outside. With a pneumatic tire, especially on the truck side, it could have 120 PSI of air pressure. So, that air pressure does a lot of work. With this concept, what carries a majority of the load is the tread band in addition to the web portion.

FE: The sidewall is unique, obviously the tread on top is familiar. What are the materials that go into the construction here?

Kimpel: To start from the very middle, it’s a steel wheel, much like the steel wheels of today—the only exception is the geometry. It’s a straight, flat surface as opposed to ridges because of the requirements for beads in a pneumatic tire. We don’t have a bead on a non-pneumatic tire.

Then the web itself is a thermoplastic. It has progressed to the point where it’s more advanced in the materials there. They can handle a broader temperature range, as well as the right reinforcements to actually go in and handle this kind of load. Because, we’re looking at a tire that can handle 5,000 lbs. and still go 75 MPH, which is what this tire concept is currently being tested for.

Then the tread itself is common to what we use today, much like the Bridgestone Ecopia tires. And the tread band is reinforced to help carry the load.

FE: Okay. So what is the reality of this technology, and what’s the next step in development of the product?

Kimpel: We’re in the validation of the concept right now. We’ve done testing to realize that we do think it’s viable. Bridgestone tests all of our tires over hundreds of thousands of miles and we’re taking that quality-based approach to make sure we are developing a product that’s safe, durable and meets the expectations for our customer base. As far as timing, it’s years away. It’s not decades away. But again, it needs to go through that validation phase.

FE: Is that just internal validation or do you have this out for pilot trials with customers?

Kimpel: It’s still in internal validation at this point.

FE: So what are you seeing in terms of rolling resistance? How does it compare with a pneumatic tire?

Kimpel: Considering that a pneumatic tire with air pressure does a tremendous amount of work, we had to be very selective in terms of the materials that we use. They need to be very, very efficient. And so, as the efficiency goes with the tires, materials that handle that kind of load and that kind of speed would also result into an acceptable rolling resistance as well.

FE: What about the impact on ride quality?

Kimpel: Consider that this is not a solid tire. It’s an airless tire. So in some of the testing, we’ve seen that the center webbing construction of the tire compresses as the vehicle goes down the road, which creates a good tread footprint for road contact. Therefore, from a ride quality standpoint, we believe we can tune the design to deliver a ride consistent with what commercial fleets require and are accustomed to with pneumatic tires.

FE: What about durability and lifecycle expectations?

Kimpel: This is where the real benefit of air free tires comes in—when you consider both durability and total cost of ownership. If we take out the variable of air—the air pressure maintenance, the durability issues and related considerations—now you have a strong product making mobility even more efficient and safe.

You May Also Like

From the Show Floor: Timely decisions on trucking decarbonization

ACT Expo is back, and we’re covering it for you. Let’s kick things off with new technologies and new regulations.

Cummins-EP-1-2024-ACT-Expo-From-the-Show-Floor-truck-hydrogen-natural-gas-engine-x15n

The future is here, and regulations are near. If there were a theme to this year's Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, it would be sustainable choices fleets can make now. Companies are determining how they’ll now shift to meet regulations from CARB or EPA—and the technology on display at ACT Expo may be key for some of them looking to stay ahead of the curve.

Truck OEM execs gather to talk electrification

An EV roundtable brought competitors from across the industry together to discuss their common decarbonization goals.

Mack adds LR Electric side loader adoption; achieves CARB/HVIP eligibility; talks EVs at ACT Expo

Mack Trucks now offers the ability to integrate the Heil fully electric RevAMP Automated Side Loader (ASL) with its Mack LR Electric Class 8 battery-electric vehicle (BEV) as an option through Heil Environment, which upfits and sells the body.  Related Articles – WEX At-Home, En Route charging reimbursement available across US – Penske, Daimler Truck

Lion Electric unveils new Class 8 truck

The company expects the Lion8 Tractor to be commercially available in the middle of this year.

Lion-Electric
Kenworth unveils SuperTruck 2

Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 utilizes a PACCAR MX-11 engine, rated at 440 HP, driven through a PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission.

Kenworth-Supertruck-2

Other Posts

Volvo pulls the curtain on autonomous truck

The autonomous truck is built on the foundation of the new VNL and made in partnership with Aurora.

volvo-autonomous
Tesla talks Semi: ‘Now is the time to scale’

We now have an official answer to the question: What’s up with the Tesla Semi?

Tesla-Semi-1400
ACT Expo 2024 kicks off

Day one keynote speeches came from executives at Volvo, Tesla, and more.

Volvo on Demand battery electric truck adoption program launches

Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) launched Volvo on Demand, a Truck-as-a-Service (TaaS) business model focused on battery electric trucks in collaboration with Volvo Financial Services (VFS). Volvo says Volvo on Demand was designed as a solution to simplify the acquisition and reduce the major upfront investment in battery-electric vehicles. Volvo on Demand provides qualified customers