I 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.
Steinke 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.