Self-inflating tires almost ready for real-world tests, says Goodyear

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Semi truck

Goodyear has developed self-inflating tires for use on semi-trucks. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Last year, Goodyear announced that it was working on self-inflating tires, partially thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy. Goodyear has the tires working in the prototype stage and is set to begin testing next year.

Government grant helps Goodyear to make self-inflating tires

Last year, leading tire manufacturer Goodyear received a $1.5 million grant, according to AutoBlog, to develop self-inflating tires from the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology. The potential benefits are self-explanatory; fewer flat tires and under-inflated tires diminish fuel economy.

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They would be great for anyone but, Goodyear is more concerned with semi-truck drivers. The tires,  fitted with Goodyear’s proprietary “Air Maintenance Technology,” could be a serious boon to the trucking industry. They work by an internal regulator and pump. When the tire senses under-inflation, the regulator opens, pumping air in until the tire reaches the correct pressure.

For those who tire of under-inflation

It’s generally held that every 10 pounds per square inch of pressure a tire is under-inflated reduces fuel efficiency by 1 percent. Tread life also suffers from under-inflation, as a 10 percent reduction of pressure reduces tread life from 9 to 16 percent.

It isn’t that the typical motorist wouldn’t benefit, but truckers would benefit more from Goodyear’s self-inflating tires. A 1 percent drop in fuel economy, in a truck that gets 6.6 miles per gallon, translates to $627 per year in fuel wasted by under-inflation. Proper pressure also means fewer flats and also fewer blowouts, which can result from over-inflation. Roughly 50 percent of breakdowns of semi-trucks are tire-related.

Obviously, there’s a big benefit there for the commercial trucking industry. Developing the tires wasn’t easy, as truck tires are inflated to 105 psi rather than 30 psi or thereabouts, which is common for passenger cars. Goodyear is taking their self-inflating tires to the 2012 Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany this month, according to Gigaom, and, according to AutoBlog, will begin field testing in 2013.

Goodyear hasn’t discussed price but they won’t be cheap. Not as much as the bespoke tires for a Bugatti Veyron, which cost almost twice the typical loans for cars people drive, but sill spendy.

Different than self-inflating systems of yesteryear

This is hardly the first instance of self-inflating tires. Given that tire inflation systems have been around for awhile, it’s not exactly inconceivable.

However, self-inflating tire systems, according to HowStuffWorks, have been around since at least the 1980s. They’re called Central Tire Inflation Systems, first offered by General Motors on Chevrolet trucks and K5 Blazers, the full-size ones not the S-10 Blazer, sold to the military and later on the Hummer H1, among other military vehicles and heavy equipment.

In CTIS, a valve is located in the wheel hub, along with pressure sensor located in the tires. The hub has an air line running to it and a pneumatic compressor is mounted to the vehicle. Usually, the system will alert the driver to under-inflation, whereupon the driver hits a “fill” switch. An electronic control module then starts inflating the tires until it reaches the proper pressure.

There are also similar systems, which use air compressors and valves in wheel hubs, employed in semi-trucks, such as the Tire Maintenance System by the Dana Corporation, who makes CTIS for the military, AIRGO and the Meritor Tire Inflation System. Michelin was similarly working on an automated tire inflation pressure management system, similar to CTIS, some years ago.

However, the difference between these systems and Goodyear’s AMT system is that Goodyear’s is entirely contained in each tire.





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