It’s about time someone re-invented the wheel! Tire, that is. Polyurethane tire, to be precise. What are the benefits of this new technology?
Run-flat capacity: The tires use air, but can drive without it for 200 miles at 50 mph, practically eliminating the need for spare tires.
Safety: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, blowouts and tire failures contribute to about 400 deaths and I 0,000 injuries in the U.S. annually.
A major cause of tire failure is tread separation, which has forced recalls by major tire makers over recent years. Rubber tires are built in layers, thus sheared. frayed tire strips are a familiar sight along highways. But Polyurethane tires are molded from a single piece and thus are far less likely to separate or undergo blowout.
Mileage: Polyurethane tires average around 45 percent less rolling resistance than rubber tires. Less power is therefore needed to drive them, translating to about 10 percent better gas mileage, welcome in days of four-dollar gallons.
Durability: In most applications, polyurethane tires last 30 percent longer than rubber ones. This is because they run 30 percent cooler, suffer less abrasion, and, unlike rubber, are not subject to hardening and cracking, or deterioration from ultraviolet light.
Energy: Producing one polyurethane tire requires only four percent of the energy used to make a rubber tire. With energy costs rising, significant savings can be passed on to consumers.
Balance: The tires are perfectly round and uniform when manufactured, dramatically reducing the need for balancing, a maintenance task that runs motorists about $50 annually.
Environment: Although the "eco" movement is politicized, worn-out rubber tires do pose a major disposal problem, and most states ban or restrict them at landfills. But polyurethane tires are 100% recyclable, and, unlike rubber, producing them creates no toxic emissions.
Appearance: For the style-conscious, the tires can be made in any color.
Freedom of Assembly
These tires present benefits not only to consumers, but manufacturers. Bringing Henry Ford's assembly-line concept into the 21st century, Polyurethane-tire factory has designed a 14-station "race track," operated by people and robots. When completed, able to produce one auto tire per minute, each tire then needing about eight minutes to "cure." Making a rubber tire takes close to an hour. Compared to rubber, manufacturing polyurethane tires requires:
1/5 the floor space;
1/3 the labor;
1/15 the scrap; and
1/4 the capital investment cost.
Since Polyurethane tires surpass rubber in so many ways, why don't we see them on cars yet?
Innovators do not always win out in the marketplace. In the 1940s, automotive visionary Preston Tucker designed a car- the "Tucker Torpedo" - which, in its original conception, had many features that later became standard in autos, including seat belts, disc brakes, and fuel injection. But lack of financing and a highly questionable government investigation hamstrung his effort to produce the cars. Only 51 of the legendary Tuckers were built, 47 of which still survive.