TIME Innovation

Self-Inflating Tires Have Been Around for Awhile

AperiaTechnologies/YouTube

The wrinkle in Aperia's Halo appears to be its rotational energy-capture system.

Self-inflating tires aren’t new, though if you didn’t know better, you might think they were. So I’m not clear why Aperia Technologies’ Halo Tire Inflator is generating buzz, when for all intents and purposes it does what similar-sounding commercial- and military-grade self-inflation systems already can: detect when pressure in a tire is low, then automatically aid air to keep things grooving.

Newsworthy (to me, anyway) would be if such technology had found its way into the sort of car I drive, which, without revealing or favoring a manufacturer, I can say is at the low end of the automotive spectrum. But at this point, Aperia’s Halo sounds like another entry in the list of systems available for commercial vehicles like tractors and trailers.

Perhaps Aperia’s technology is less expensive than existing self-inflation systems, or easier to install, or more efficient, or longer-lasting. It’s not clear in the company’s overview, though it may be the mechanism for air generation that’s novel here: The Halo is essentially a five-pound self-sustaining pump that’s able to generate pressure by channeling energy generated from tire rotation — Aperia says it’s fully mechanical, so there’s no external power source. The company compares it to a self-winding watch: in this case, a pendulum-like object oscillates as the tire moves, generating energy that’s then translated into pumping power. There’s no minimum speed to generate power, the system doesn’t interfere with external inflation sources and Aperia says its regulation system is designed to ensure it’ll never over-inflate the tire.

In its sales pitch, the company makes expected points about proper tire inflation, like that it saves you gas money (your fuel efficiency drops when your tires are under-inflated, and that’s big money if you’re a commercial driver), that it’ll increase the life of your tires and that it helps prevent blowouts and reduces emissions. The company claims it takes “5 to 10 minutes” to bolt the system onto a tire, and that it’s maintenance free thereafter.

While the Halo doesn’t include a system for transmitting tire pressure information to the cab, wirelessly or otherwise, I assume it works with existing PSI-monitoring tools, if your commercial vehicle has them. Given how innocuous-looking it is, you’d think this sort of thing might be a shoe-in for consumer use. I might pay extra not to have to worry about inflating my tires when the temperature shifts dramatically, if it were offered on mainstream (and not just luxury) vehicles.

If you want to read more about self-inflating tire systems, HowStuffWorks has an excellent overview here, including mention of self-sustaining systems like Aperia’s Halo, where air’s either generated by the rotation of the tire, or drawn in from the atmosphere itself.

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