Over the past year, researchers at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company have been working on a new Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) application that can aid in fuel savings and CO2 reductions while potentially improving performance and eliminating need for external inflation pressure intervention.
Tire-related costs are the single largest maintenance item for commercial vehicle fleet operators with more than 50% of all truck and trailer breakdowns involving a tire in some way. Goodyear's AMT mechanism allows tires to maintain constant, optimum pressure without the use of external pumps, electronics, and driver intervention.
Users should receive these benefits from AMT-enabled tires:
Improved fuel economy — Optimum tire pressure is key in the commercial market. It is estimated that for every 10 psi lost in tire inflation, there is a 1% loss in miles per gallon. While that may seem insignificant, it could cost a truck owner over $627 in fuel, based on a vehicle that has a fuel consumption of 6.6 miles per gallon, and runs 100,000 miles a year with a diesel fuel price of $4.10/gallon.
Prolonged tread life — AMT is expected to play a major role in optimizing tread life. Tires underinflated by 10% decrease tread life by 9% to 16%. By using AMT, commercial vehicle fleet operators will be able to realize the full mileage potential of their tires, thus saving money by prolonging use of their tires.
Optimized performance — Properly inflated tires are also necessary to keep a vehicle's handling performance at optimal levels. Underinflation means less evenly distributed pressure on the road. It also reduces the tread area in direct contact with the road and can impact the integrity of the tire casing.
Commercial trucks pose a different challenge for AMT than consumer vehicles as their tires are larger, have higher inflation pressures, drive longer distances, and carry heavier loads. Commercial tires operate at a higher air pressure, typically 105 psi for commercial tires vs 32 psi for consumer tires. This is a much more challenging performance requirement for the pump system. The life of a commercial truck tire is often extended by retreading. The commercial truck AMT system is being designed to perform after the retreading process.
Engineers at Goodyear's Innovation Center in Akron OH are credited with the development of the commercial application of this concept and the supporting technology. Prototype tires have been produced in Goodyear's Topeka KS manufacturing plant, and rigorous validation testing has confirmed that the AMT pumping mechanism works. A fleet trial is planned to gather real-world information from customers in 2013.
A $1.5 million grant from The United States Department of Energy's Office (DOE) of Vehicle Technology is helping speed research, development, and demonstration of the AMT system for commercial vehicle tires. A grant from the Luxembourg government for research and development will continue to help fund Goodyear's efforts in researching and developing the AMT system for consumer tires.