We may see this in action on the upcoming Tesla Semi, Model Y, and pickup truck.
As usual, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was excited about the future of the company and its goals during the recent Tesla Q3 earnings call. We listened in and provided you with a real-time synopsis of the happenings. However, there are always some quick mentions that slip through the cracks or are not made abundantly clear during the call. One such key future concept is an automatic tire inflation system for the Tesla Semi, which could seemingly make its way into other future Tesla vehicles, like the Model Y and Tesla Pickup Truck.
While a new patent wasn't specifically mentioned during the earnings call, we give Kudos to Teslarati for tracking down this interesting information. Apparently, a recent patent application (October 18, 2018) points to a system that will auto-inflate the tires on the upcoming Tesla Semi. As shown by the publication, it's referred to and titled as “Automatic Tire Inflation System with Thru-Hub Air Feed.” See the related schematic below:
Tesla Self-Inflating Tire Patent Diagram (Source: US Patent Office, via Teslarati)
Automatic tire inflation systems are not new. In fact, several companies are working on them and some are already in practice. But, Tesla believes its idea supersedes those of the past. The system could require less maintenance and make tires last even longer. According to Teslarati, via the official patent document explaining the Tesla ATIS system:
These prior solutions had a number of shortcomings. With some prior art techniques, air was fed through hollow drive axles to a fitting located on the end thereof. The fitting was then coupled to the air inlets of the tires. To couple the air into the hollow drive axles, a rotatingly attached fitting coupled air from an air storage to the inside of the hollow axles. This fitting was subject to leakage of contaminants. These contaminants interfered with the operation of the ATIS and eventually caused the ATIS to fail.
In order to overcome the shortcomings described above among other shortcomings, an Automatic Tire Inflation System (ATIS) for use with a vehicle according to a first described embodiment includes a controller, valves controlled by the controller, the valves having an air supply inlet, and a plurality of air outlets. Further, the ATIS includes, for at least one drive axle having inner bearings and outer bearings, a channel formed in a spindle, first hosing coupling a valve of the valves controlled by the controller to the channel formed in the spindle, a channel formed in a hub, a rotary air seal residing between the inner bearings and the outer bearings and coupling the channel formed in the spindle to the channel formed in the hub, and second hosing coupling the channel formed in the hub to at least one wheel.
Thus, as compared to the prior ATIS systems, the ATIS of the first embodiment, significantly reduces contamination in the ATIS air stream. Reduction in contamination extends the life of the ATIS, extends spindle life, extends hub life, and extends serviced wheel/tire lives and extends maintenance intervals.
For more information about this new Tesla technology, follow this link.