Will South Africa get air free tyres?

Air free tyres have been around for a long time. They were first used on the moon buggy for a moon landing in 1971. The durability of airless tyres has since seen them introduced on vehicles used for mining and agricultural purposes.

While drivers may think that with air free tyres, punctures would be a thing of the past, the truth is that air free tyres have significant technical constraints. Airless tyres don’t promise a smooth ride, and can’t be overloaded either. Nevertheless, their introduction, if further refined, could be revolutionary for passenger safety. We investigate the possibility of air free tyres in South Africa.

Traditional tyres for cars (rubber and filled with air) are considered engineering marvels but are superceded by air free tyres.

They are able to operate in extreme weather conditions, with a wider speed range and greater load capacity. But air free tyres have been hailed as revolutionary for passenger safety. In a country like South Africa, where over a holiday period, deaths on the road total 1400 on average, air free tyres could mitigate traffic accident disasters. We investigate whether these tyres would replace the conventional tyres on vehicles in South Africa.

Here is how air free tyres work.

Airless tyres mean that consumers no longer have to fear blowouts on the highway, because air free tyres are indestructible.

The second-generation prototype no longer has to maintain a tight seal to stay inflated. Now, it has a thin band of solid rubber supported by flexible resin spokes. Previously, run-flat technology ensured that should your tyre get punctured, drivers could safely travel a few kilometres before stopping (they could for instance drive to a police station, or petrol station, where they may feel safer phoning for help).

Air free tyres are a lot more environmentally-friendly than conventional tyres.

Instead of discarding the entire wheel when its tread wears out, the thin rubber band in the air free tyre can be replaced. Some manufacturers are making completely recyclable tyres. Drivers in South Africa may be partial to both increased safety and earth-friendly products.

But airless tyres may be a niche product, for those who can afford it.

Air free tyre technology hasn’t been around long enough to warrant its total replacement of conventional tyres on vehicles. Firstly, more research and testing needs to be done (traditional tyres went through 100 years of technical refinement) and secondly, demand for these tyres is still comparatively low.

The price for air free tyres is a lot more than conventional tyres. As production increases though, costs should decrease.

A car with air free tyres may be damaged more with impact.

When testing was done on a bicycle with air free tyres, it was found that sudden impact was more harshly transmitted through the chassis, with the bicycle’s suspension breaking and its rims buckling. Traditional tyres are better at absorbing impact and even if the tyre gets destroyed, there is still limited damage transferred to the suspension.

Air free tyres are also more prone to vibration at high speed and suffer from poor comfort, as it does not have the ability to add extra air to mitigate changes in vehicles weight.

Air-filled tyres will be around for a while and they should be maintained properly.

Tyres need to be maintained to extend a vehicle’s lifecycle. A compromised solution is the use of “run-flat” tyres as they provide the benefits of both air free and conventional tyres.

To take the risk and hassle out of maintaining your fleet, Avis offers an all-inclusive managed maintenance and service plan. You will greatly benefit from our dealer negotiated pricing and service management process. By monitoring your service history, all unavoidable charges will be prevented. 


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