By Colin Bird on August 30, 2011
Keeping your tires properly inflated is vital to maintaining the right performance, safety and fuel economy targets for your car. It’s ironic, then, that something so important is often left to the driver’s discretion — remember, too much or too little tire pressure can lead to problems. The new mandatory tire pressure monitoring systems help, but wouldn’t it be easier if tire pressure were perfectly regulated on its own?
Goodyear has been working on just such a solution, and it came up with a tire design that can keep tires properly inflated at all times.
Self-regulating tires are not new — most large semi-trucks have them, the New York Times reports. The difference here is rather than using an external air pump and pressure valve — something that would look odd on a passenger car — the mechanism lies within the tire itself.The miniature pump and other components would automatically regulate the air pressure, maintaining the proper specifications for the given vehicle.
Right now Goodyear doesn’t know when (or if) the technology would be marketable, but if it can be sold to the public, it could make a big impact on the nation’s gasoline use. And the first applications would likely be in semi-trucks, not passenger cars.
One out of three cars has severely underinflated tires, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Underinflated tires can reduce fuel economy between 2.5% and 3.3% in passenger cars and commercial trucks. At today’s prices, that equates to 12 cents wasted per gallon of gas, Goodyear says.
Improperly inflated tires also increase a vehicle’s stopping distance and affect the ride and handling and long-term life of the tires.