It has long been said that chivalry is dead, but happening across a damsel in distress standing at the side of the road with a flat tyre has always been the last bastion for us men to show our chivalrous side. Not anymore though as Bridgestone announced at the Tokyo Motor Show that it is working on a new type of air-less tyre that cannot be punctured.
The tyres are still in the concept phase but when they are released they will mean punctures and chivalry will be a thing of the past. Featuring thermoplastic-resin spokes that radiate from rim to the thread the tyres are essentially solid, much like those on kid's go-karts. As the tyre wall is supported by this complex weave it does not require air to support it and no air means no puncture, even if you do drive a nail right into the thread.
The tyres have so far been successfully tested on that benchmark of car performance - 'single-person vehicles traditionally used by elderly people' or mobility scooters as they are known. Bridgestone plans to heavily evaluate the tyre's performance on traditional cars before making it available to the general public. That's a good thing - I would not fancy driving on something extensively tested on a mobility scooter.
Michelin came up with a similar concept - the Tweel - back in 2006 even winning the Intermat Gold Medal for Innovation, but so far applications have been limited to the Segway and industrial settings. So until Bridgestone develops a useable air-less tyre that can offer the same kind of performance as the conventional ones we use today it looks like we are stuck with the pneumatic tyre that Andre Michelin first invented over a hundred and ten years ago - and chivalry can continue on for a few more years at least.
Paul Healy - 7 Dec 2011