• Dec 19, 2004

Polyurethane TiresI was reading a bit about a little company called Amerityre who manufacturers flat-free closed-cell polyurethane foam tires that are used for bicycles, golf carts, lawn mowers, etc. They are venturing on a quest to create a urethane tire for street use on cars and trucks, replacing rubber forever. Sounds a bit far-fetched? I thought so too.

The man behind the operation is Richard Steinke, described as one part scientist and one part ?snake oil? promoter. He is pushing hard for this new technology to get off the ground. Why replace rubber with urethane?

A urethane tire can be molded in one piece, which means no more tread separations like those that were so widespread a few years ago with the Ford Explorer. The urethane tire can be driven on even when devoid of air, which adds the ?run-flat? desirability of the product. Also, the manufacturing process and equipment costs ?one-fifteenth? verses those needed for rubber tires, a fact that Amerityre is hoping to give them an inroad in burgeoning markets in China and India.

Amerityre first step is to sell urethane spare tires to automakers to generate interest, and revenue, to the project. Touting that their zero-pressure spare tire removes the explosion hazard that the current tires have in a rear-end collisions, Amerityre starts the inroads to legitimacy. The zero-pressure tire can also be driven 50 mph for over 2,000 miles verses the 50 miles or so on current spares.

polyurethane Car TireSteinke is already getting his promoting machine spinning by reeling in the likes of Lee Iacocca and Joseph Grano Jr (former CEO of PaineWebber) onto his newly-formed advisory board. In a press release from Amerityre, Lee Iacocca gives his 2 cents, ?In my 40-plus years experience in the automotive industry, Amerityre?s car tire technology has the most potential to change the industry as we know it?.

Urethane has been tried before and its biggest problem has been traction, which could be a major setback since we are talking tires here. Many tire manufacturers are waiting for real test results before investing in the technology. Amerityre?s goal is to sell their technology to the big name tire makers and replace rubber for good.

I?m linking to the Amerityre page that has explains their take on rubber verses polyurethane for anyone that wants to learn more. Me, I?m a skeptic. Until I see real world performance numbers on these tires, Mr. Steinke is still selling tonic from the back of his truck.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 3 Comments
      • 10 Years Ago
      I'm with you Walter. All I can think of is hydroplaning because of Urethane's smooth nature. Even if they apply a tread and create micro-channels in the Urethane's mold, there is no guarantee it will stick. Vulcanized Rubber works because the rubber itself is sticky. The treading gives more surface area, especially on uneven roads, for the tires to grip even more.
      • 10 Years Ago
      I could see these tires making their way into the budget tire market. They are apparently inexpensive to produce, cheap tires have crap traction anyway, and the people that buy them generally want to do as little maintenance as possible (as such the airless tire may even be safer for them). Honestly I'm surprised we haven't seen more attempts at a rubber tire using a closed cell foam technology.
      • 10 Years Ago
      1) Heat remains a major hurdle for Urethane. Think about during braking and how much heat is involved. Rubber either burn and flakes away, but a urethane tire would store that heat, get softer and eventually melt. I'm sure additives could solve this but then how would they affect urethanes other properties. 2) I think shock absorbtion may even be better, think how much softer a foam mattress is compared to a air one. Even a multi composition tire could be made with solid a solid tread and foam cores. 3) Ameritire claims a lower rolling resistance so this may offeset the weight gains in addtion to losing the spare and tools. I've read that urethane stil has a lower traction, both because of the material and because it won't flatten on the contact patch like a pnematic tire would. I'm sure the industry will get over these hurdles and we'll see urethane tires one day but alot of research is need to compete with rubber tires that have over a 100yrs of refinement in them.