We put up with a lot from our pneumatic tires, from punctures and blowouts, to slashings and the certainty of relatively frequent, inconvenient replacements and giant piles of waste rubber. The current technology seems well overdue for a revolutionary overhaul, if you’ll pardon the pun, and yet despite dozens of fascinating attempts to reinvent the wheel, nothing seems to have found traction yet. Boy, I’m on a roll here.
The latest idea to come across our desks, though, makes a compelling business case for itself as well as offering some interesting dynamic capabilities. Meet the Air Suspension Wheel (ASW), from Global Air Cylinder Wheels out of Chandler, Arizona.
Like a regular pneumatic tire, the ASW is air-suspended, but in this case, it’s not by an inflated tube. It’s a full hub and wheel replacement that separates the outer tread and rim from the hub using a set of eccentrically mounted, pneumatic air cylinders.
These air shocks are tuneable to give you whatever level of tire deflection you choose, from super-firm to softer and squishier than a regular deflated tire can handle. Likewise, you can design in whatever degree of lateral flex suits your application, and even whatever level of torque flex you’d like, which allows the wheel to flex a little on the axle before it turns. This allows it to act as a soft torque coupler and gives a touch more traction in very difficult circumstances before the wheel spins, as well as slightly isolating the drive train from damaging torque forces in the rough stuff.
Read more: Fascinating Air Suspension Wheels bring new thinking to one of man’s oldest problems