Trucks at Work

Armored tires

In extreme off-road tires, reinforced sidewalls with Kevlar help increase sidewall puncture resistance.” –Jon Bellissimo, Goodyear’s North American director of consumer tire technology

Here’s an interesting concept to consider: armored truck tires. Yep, that’s right – applying the same material used to make bulletproof body armor for police and soldiers to truck tires. Right now, this is purely for consumer-grade tires, but from where I sit, one would think medium- and heavy-duty truckers that perform a lot of off-road work could benefit from this technology as well.

The armor material in question – Kevlar fiber – is made by DuPont and is being applied to Goodyear tires targeted for use in conditions ranging from tough, rocky terrain to everyday highway driving. Thomas Powell, vice president and general manager for DuPont Protection Technologies, said the reason for merging Kevlar and tires together is pretty straightforward, as this armored material helps help provide stability, toughness and comfort.

[You can see these tires in action below via the “rock and roll” styled video Goodyear and DuPont put together to promote these armored tires.]

Powell noted, however, that tire reinforcement was the initial application for Kevlar more than 40 years ago – it only gradually seeped into the body armor market. Thus the concept of “armored tires” isn’t new: in fact, Goodyear introduced Wrangler and Fortera tires with SilentArmor Technology – a basically a layer of Kevlar under the tread – back in 2005, and a year later began offering the Eagle branded tire line with what it called ResponsEdge Technology; a sound- and shock-absorbing InsuLayer made with DuPont Kevlar.

Now, Goodyear is widening its use of Kevlar, adding it to its new Wrangler MT/R off-road tire; the first made in the with Kevlar to boost sidewall puncture resistance by about 35% said Powell. That armored material also helps reinforce the sidewall for when drivers return to the pavement for the drive home.

Goodyear’s subsidiary Dunlop, working with designer Pininfarina, also unveiled an ultra-lightweight concept tire in Europe featuring Kevalr to replace traditional steel components. At 20% less weight, “this would lead to significant lower levels of rolling resistance and fuel consumption,” said Bernd Loewenhaupt, Dunlop’s director of consumer tire technology.

This is all pretty cool stuff – and the applications for commercial trucks would seem to be a no-brainer. However, as always, there’s the cost factor to consider. Yet if Kevlar could make commercial truck tires last longer and perform better off-road and on-highway, that extra cost might be worth it – in fact helping drive down the life cycle costs of tires. That will be the real trick, of course – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.