Airless Tires From Polaris Can Get Shot By A .50-Caliber Round And Keep Driving

By Ben Wolford on November 19, 2013 2:36 PM EST

Airless Tires
Polaris has introduced a new military-grade airless tire that can withstand bullets. (Photo: Photo:

The military has had airless tires for a while now in its off-road, combat vehicles, and some car tire companies have been floating the idea for years. But the general public has never had access to the technology. That is, until this week, when the company Polaris announced that it was finally making airless tires available to consumers in its newest all-terrain vehicle.

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Polaris calls them NPTs, for "Non-Pneumatic Tires." A division of the company, Polaris Defense, has offered the tire to the military since the beginning of this year, and, according to Polaris, "the tires never go flat." To be able to make such a claim, the company says it put the NPTs through tire hell. In one test, they shot it with a .50-caliber round. That's a bullet about a half-inch wide, fired from a weapon more powerful than a .357 Magnum. After receiving the hit, Polaris techs successfully drove 350 miles without a problem. In another test, they hammered a three-inch railroad spike into the tire and then traveled 1,000 miles.

"In early 2013 Polaris announced we'd launch the NPT technology on an off-road vehicle built for consumers," said David Longren, vice president of Polaris' off-road division, in a statement. "We have seen great success with NPTs in military and disaster relief scenarios and are excited to bring this technology to the consumer market for extreme work applications." 

The bulletproof, railroad-spike-proof airless tires only come for consumers on this, the Sportsman WV850 H.O. They price it at $14,999 and say it's "a true work vehicle." They'll be released in December "in very limited quantities," according to the company. It's great news for hunters and construction workers, but what about commuters sick of worrying about street shrapnel?

Keep waiting. It's not clear when automobile tire companies will release airless tires, though many have been experimenting with the technology. Michelin, notably, introduced the Tweel (a combination of a wheel and a tire) in 2005 but has not offered the product to the general automobile industry. In 2008, however, they put it to use in skid-steer loaders.

According to The New York Times, the technology in the Tweel reduces the number of parts and regulations that the auto industry demands of pneumatic tires. It can also improve a car's handling, though it makes the ride more bumpy for drivers. But airless tires make up for the drawbacks in other areas. In the Polaris NPT, for example, developers say the tires are quieter. "There is nowhere for the sound to pool, so there's no humming or drumming like there is with a standard pneumatic tire," Polaris business development representative Joaquin Salas told Fox News.

The airless tire industry also seems to be expanding. The airless tire blog airless-tire.com reports that well-known companies continue to tout the technology and boast about it at car shows, and small companies are entering the market.

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