Flat tires are a pain in the rear! They never come at a convienient time. I remember driving down Mckinley in Mishawaka one particularly rainy evening, when my left rear tire decided to become all floppy. I pulled over into a parking lot near a restaurant and got out to investigate. Sure enough, the tire was completely flat. I opened my trunk to get to the spare and found that the spare and the tools had been completely rusted. Evidently the last time I had checked my spare tire and tools was...well...never. I was even working for a repair shop and I knew better. So I bang the rusty jack on the ground a few times to try to get it freed up. It was the style that cranks up by a long, threaded rod. I managed to get it to go up enough to get the tire up off the ground. It required a lot of kicking and banging. At the point I discovered that the lugnut wrench had swelled beyond fitting onto my wheel lugs, I was drenched and fuming. I went into the nearby restaurant to see if I could possibly borrow a lug wrench. Oddly, they quickly produced one from behind the kitchen door. I didn't ask questions. It was a four-way lug wrench and was exactly what I needed. After an hour or so in the rain, and a couple lessons on spare tire preparedness and restaurant security, I finally was able to complete my commute home from work. That was a valuable lesson.
About 5 years later, I discover that Michelin has a prototype airless tire. It was an ugly, awkward looking thing. In spite of that, I knew that this was the right idea. The biggest challenges would be to make it compliment the appearance of a vehicle and handle like a regular tire. Most people don't realize how much tires play into absorbing road imperfections and creating ride comfort. Consider what a car ride might feel like on hard tires. This is why solid tires are only used on low speed, industrial vehicles.
Then I see a new article on airless tires. This one is from Hankook and is far more appealing.
It sounds like they are coming a lot closer to creating an affordable, comfortable tire that actually has curb appeal. There are a lot of advantages even beyond the 'no more flats' issue. Consider that low tire lights could be a thing of the past. With the wheel and tire being a one piece assembly, you basically get new rims each time you replace your tires!
There will be other advantages too, but I think we'll wait and see before I get too excited. There are still other issues that have to be worked out before consumers are able to buy them, but it's definitely something to watch for!
Erik and Jennifer are the owner/operators of Mobile Service Pros. We enjoy working with our customers and community.