Airless tires have been sort of like a pesky mole in the last ten years: they poke their heads out just long enough to catch some attention, then retreat back into their holes. Other than being airless and less-prone to damage, their use in automobiles has been questionable based on their potential lack of driving comfort. So far, we’ve seen efforts from Michelin, Segway, and iBOT in applying airless tire technologies to low-speed vehicles such as those used in construction, however we’ve been yet to see anything truly prominent trickle down to the mass market. Polaris just might be the first to claim that title with their announcement of their Sportsman WV850 design featuring airless TerrainArmor tires that are not only more rugged for off-road riding, but are also strong enough to take a .50-caliber bullet round and keep driving for hundreds of miles.
TerrainArmor Tires: Airless and Bulletproof
For those who know their ATVs, the Sportsman WV850 might look slightly familiar to you—it is based on the same ATV design that Polaris built for the military and unveiled in early 2013. Perhaps the ‘bullet-proof’ application comes more into play here more so than an average ATV user, but it makes for great marketing-talk, right?
Designed by Resilient Technologies of Wisconsin, the tires feature a durable rubber honeycomb interior design encapsulated by a heavy, more traditional tire tread. Originally, Resilient developed the tires for smaller consumer applications such as lawn mowers, but after acquiring the Resilient in April of 2012, Polaris scaled up the tires for their ATV designs.
“Resilient Technologies is breaking new ground with a patent-pending non-pneumatic (airless) tire. Extensive testing currently is ongoing. The initial focus is on U.S. military applications, where tire deflation caused by rough terrain or ballistic events could place military personnel in immediate danger.”
The tires are marketed as being able to keep running for 1,000 miles after hitting a railroad spike or 350 miles after taking fire from a .50-caliber rifle. In terms of non-tire performance, the WV850 features a 1,500 pound towing capacity (about the weight of a cow), a winching setup good for up to 3,500 pounds, a single-speed transmission, and an 11.75 gallon fuel tank.
Similar to Michelin’s Tweel design and Bridgestone’s Airless Tire concept, the TerrainArmor tires are among the first in what will surely be a not-too-distant future consisting of more airless tires on the road (or at least, the trail).
Michelin’s Tweel Tire (left) and Bridgestone’s Airless Tire (right)
Polaris’ TerrainArmor Tire Detail
If hightailing over boulders while blasting AC/DC on 11 sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, the Sportsman WV850 will start at $14,999 beginning in December 2013.
(Images via Polaris)