Airless tires have been coming “soon” for my entire adult life. It’s been sixteen years (and one day) since Popular Science first introduced nine-year-old Steve to the concept: Magic tires, always at the perfect pressure, with a design that allows manufacturers to vary grip and stiffness and flex between models. Now, over a decade and a half later, manufacturers are racing to finally make a non-pneumatic tire you can actually buy. Michelin’s Uptis may be the big name, but Goodyear’s recent tests show they aren’t planning on being left behind.
The test video, posted by InsideEVs, shows Goodyear-developed non-pneumatic tires installed on a Tesla Model 3. The car performs slaloms and takes corners at speed, but without matching footage taken on standard tires it’s tough to tell how differently the airless rubber handles. The full video is here:
Airless tires offer a number of benefits compared to the pneumatic rubber we all know and love. They won’t be substantially damaged by a puncture, meaning you and your space-age tires can pull Baby Driver-style shenanigans all day. They don’t rely on air pressure, so the tread will never see the increased wear that comes from under- or over-inflating tires.
Of course, no engineering marvel is perfect, and airless tires are no exception. In the test video, the engineers from Goodyear never take the tires faster than the lowest of highway speed limits — the company claims they’ve been durability tested up to 100 mph, but says maneuverability tests haven’t exceeded Sammy Hagar’s least-favorite speed. These test units will likely fall victim to mud in the tires, but it’s unclear if final production versions would have the same open sides.
Goodyear is aiming to release their airless tires in 2030, a full 25 years after that PopSci piece. I know you can’t rush perfection, but I’ve been waiting to try these since before I could drive. Can you all maybe speed up your tests a little?