Next-gen tech: Bridgestone run-flat tires
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No matter where or when it happens, a flat tire is always an inconvenience. That’s why more auto manufacturers today are equipping vehicles with run-flat tires. Run-flat tires allow drivers to continue traveling to a safe place after a puncture. No more waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck to arrive, or worse, changing a tire on the edge of a busy highway.
Run-flat tires are perhaps best known for their extended mobility benefit, but automakers are now turning to the technology as a way to help them meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. CAFE standards are U.S. government regulations requiring manufacturers to raise the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. By equipping vehicles with run-flat tires, manufacturers can omit the spare tire. This reduces the weight of the car, contributing to improved fuel economy.
The Evolution of Run-Flat Technology
The origins of the self-supporting run-flat started in 1935 with a tire that had a fabric inner lining. The tire was advertised as a protection against blow-outs, a common and dangerous occurrence in the 1930s.
Over the years, demands for a spare tire replacement increased continuously, and so too did the apparent need for a “run-flat” tire. In 1987, Bridgestone — the world’s largest rubber and tire manufacturer — developed run-flat tires for the revolutionary Porsche 959. The performance vehicle was the first mass-produced automobile equipped with run-flat tires. In this early application, however, run-flat tires offered a firm ride compared to conventional tires due to a stiffer tire sidewall.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s — that’s when BMW collaborated with Bridgestone to fit run-flat tires on all future car models as standard equipment. By installing run-flats, BMW reduced the weight of their cars by removing the heavy spare wheel and tire on many models.
This not only improved fuel economy, but also provided more cabin space for driver and passenger belongings. The ride comfort degradation was the next challenge that the Bridgestone engineers tackled. This was an issue Bridgestone’s engineers successfully addressed when the company introduced its 3G, or third-generation, run-flat technology in 2009. The result was an innovative run-flat tire technology that combined a quiet, comfortable ride with the ability to keep going up to 50 miles at up to 50 miles per hour after a puncture. Bridgestone’s 3G run-flat tire technology is utilized in a variety of original equipment tires today and specified on new vehicles by automotive manufacturers around the globe.
At the Forefront of Run-Flat Development
Bridgestone has invested heavily in the research and development of run-flat technology. In 2014, the company introduced DriveGuard, the first full line of run-flat tires for the replacement tire market. Executives with the company say DriveGuard is noteworthy, not only because it is the first replacement tire line of its kind, but also because it demonstrates the company’s commitment to delivering next-generation tires and ability to pioneer new developments in tire innovation.
“Our engineers are intensely focused on developing the most innovative tires to meet the needs of today’s drivers and tomorrow’s vehicles,” said Mike Martini, president, original equipment, U.S. and Canada Consumer Tire Sales Divisions, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “Our ability to anticipate the needs of the automotive industry and respond to the needs of drivers is apparent when you consider the progress we’ve made in enhancing run-flat tire technology.
As drivers continue rating safety and extended mobility high on the list of features they look for in a vehicle and the automotive industry continues to look for new ways to produce lighter-weight vehicles, Martini anticipates demand for run-flat tires will grow. Since run-flat tires work reliably with interconnected technologies like Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), it may only be a matter of time before they become the norm rather than the exception in new vehicles.
Learn more about new safety technologies at BridgestoneAmericas.com
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Bridgestone Americas.