In Tokyo, Bridgestone unveils airless, puncture-proof tires

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Bridgestone's airless new tire is puncture-proof and recyclable.

Automotive tire maker Bridgestone will formally introduce this weekend a new "airless" model that it says is puncture-proof.

The technology, which will officially debut at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show beginning tomorrow, uses resin spokes to support the vehicle's load.

Instead of running from the rim to the tread, as with conventional tires, the recyclable thermoplastic resin spokes are designed at such an angle that "the force that deforms the tread does not become a turning force," according to Tech-On. Two sets of spokes reinforce each other for stability. (To be fair, the concept model is just nine inches in diameter.)

The bottom line is that there's no air, which means there are no debilitating punctures, which saves on maintenance and headaches.

It's not the first time we've seen "hard" wheels before, of course. The military uses them all the time in harsh environments; as for the consumer auto market, rival Michelin introduced its Tweel airless concept tire (pictured, at right) in 2006 -- but that product suffered from vibration, heat and noise problems at high speeds, according to my CNET colleague Tim Hornyak.

Is this tiny model the answer? Probably not, but it's the latest step toward a more durable -- and sustainable -- tire for full-size vehicles. The question is whether the price will be right.

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