Polaris will be bringing their non-pneumatic tire technology from the battlefield to the recreational trails and work environments in the second half of 2014. While originally targeting military applications and available since December on a limited number of ATVs, the tires will now be an option on a wider range of vehicles including side-by-sides by the end of the year. The non-pneumatic tires (NPT) consist of a rubber tread similar to a pneumatic tire that surrounds a polymetric web with a honeycomb design. The technology produces a tire with lateral stiffness for less tire roll while cornering and better grip over rocky or rough terrain since the web part of the tire allows the tire to deform while traveling over an obstacle. The main characteristic is that the tire cannot go flat. In testing the tire has withstood 50 caliber bullets and railroad spikes and remained operable for thousands of miles.
While these characteristics obviously appeal to recreational users, Polaris is initially rolling out the technology for work applications since the company has been getting a lot of feedback from that market according to management. Another issue that hinders a quick and broad roll-out of the NPT is that matching a NPT tire to a given vehicle is complicated. The characteristics of the web design, web material, tread design and material and lug pattern must be adjusted for each vehicle and application. The company has received interest from mining, turf, agriculture, construction and even the aviation markets. Rail industries are also very interested. Learn more: Powersportsbusines.com
Comment: This could grow into a nice sized adjacent business for Polaris. It will be difficult for competitors to enter the market. Not only does Polaris own patents for this technology but they are also developing expertise in understanding the complexities of matching different tire characteristics to specific vehicles and end-use applications. Competitors will have a difficult time both acquiring or developing a similar technology as well as the related engineering expertise. Polaris also has the advantage of being the leading brand with a large installed base of potential customers. The tire technology could also provide a differentiator in the commercial UTV market which Polaris has been making a more determined push.