By David Shaw, ERJ staff
Marseille, France--Pirelli has revealed its strategy for delivering safety and security to drivers in the event of damage to a tyre. The company showed a range of solutions that first provide mechanical support to the vehicle and secondly alert the driver and car electronics to the situation.
Although the international press event was titled a "Run Flat Innovation Day", Pirelli revealed far more about its future direction than simply runflat tyres.
The company believes it can add value to OE car makers and individual motorists by offering a range of technologies to suit different needs of sophistication and price. In one arm of the strategy Pirelli has a range of systems that alert a driver and the vehicle electronics to a loss in pressure in one or more tyres. In a second arm, the company aims to have an equally varied range of mechanical solutions that permit a driver to either stop safely, or to continue driving for an extended distance in the event of a suden or gradual loss of pressure.
Pirelli's range of alerting system range from the simple, cheap X-pressure optical--which simply fits to the top of each valve stem and changes colour when the pressure falls below a pre-defined limit; to the high-technology Cyber Tire (see separate story).
In terms of delivering safety following a severe pressure loss, the company demonstrated two main systems. The first is the well established self-supporting sidewall technology, suited to most saloon cars.
The second was the SWS (Safety Wheel System) in which compressed air is stored within the wheel rim, and released through a pressure sensitive valve when pressure within the tyre chamber falls below a pre-determined level. The air in the rim is typically stored at 10 bar and may have a volume of between 10 percent and 50 percent of the volume within the tyre chamber. Thus allowing approximately one full charge of air per tyre.
Pirelli says this is enough to bring the vehicle to a stop in perfect safety and under full control, even in the case of a large hole caused by a screw or bolt puncturing the tyre and immediately falling out of the hole.
The SWS is suited to all vehicles, from motorcycles to large, heavy SUVs and light trucks. It offers drivers peace of mind that their tyres will continue to be inflated to the correct pressure over a period of many months, and the ability to stop in safety, should an SWS tyre suffer catastrophic pressure loss.
Francesco Gori, head of Pirelli's tyre operations said Pirelli's tyre unit will continue to make profits through its own organic growth, and is very unlikely to develop through acquisition of large electronics companies. He said tyres remain the prime focus of PIrelli's tyre activities and while electronics will play an increasing role in that sector, Pirelli wil not lose sight of its prime focus on high performance and high technology tyre systems.