In 2013, while walking the aisles of the Agritechnica machinery show in Germany, I happened upon a unique-looking tractor tire called the PneuTrac from the company Galileo Wheel out of Israel. Its design turned conventional tire technology on its head. An inverted sidewall, the ability to run with little or no air pressure and a very long footprint were its main features.
Why it matters: On average, the inverted sidewall tires show a 17.6 per cent traction gain primarily due to the extended footprint. Other benefits include lower overall ground pressure and compaction levels and improved stability on varying terrain.
“The basic concept is we are approaching the carcass, or tire design, in a different way,” Avishay Novoplanski, founder of Galileo Wheel Ltd. and inventor of the PneuTrac, told me at the time. “In all existing tires, the carcass is a U-shape revolved around the rim. As the tire works, the sidewall is deflecting. The (standard) tire tries to follow the contour of the ground and increase its footprint, and it can do that to some extent. But if you deflate it too much, the footprint buckles in the centre (of the tread). With this (PneuTrac) design, the sidewall is kind of a V-shape, like an accordion. All the vertical load is carried only by the air, not by the carcass.
“In ag applications, you go with very low pressure, so the sidewalls (of conventional tires) tend to bulge out,” Novoplanski explained. “What is bulging out is the thinnest and weakest part of the tire. With this (PneuTrac) tire, it won’t bulge out, so it is less likely something will hit the sidewall.”
The PneuTrac’s design created a much longer (longitudinal) footprint than a standard radial tire, something more like a track, hence the marketing slogan at the time, “Tire or Track?” However, they can still be mounted on a standard wheel rim.
In 2013, Novoplanski said the tire was still a long way from hitting the market as a commercially available product. In 2015, the Mitas brand, which was the major manufacturer Galileo had partnered with, showed the tires as a concept at the U.S. Farm Progress Show. In 2017, Trelleborg, which acquired Mitas, announced it would begin marketing a limited size range of the PneuTrac tire for smaller specialty tractors.
Now, Galileo Wheel has moved to a more independent manufacturing and marketing stance. Last summer, the PneuTrac, now using the name AgriCup, again made a North American appearance at the 2019 U.S. Farm Progress Show. This time, with Novoplanski’s company displaying them on its own, noting an increased range of sizes were available for order, including 600/65CW28, 710/70CW38 and 710/70CW42.
However, this summer Rotem Sade, marcom manager at Galileo Wheel, told Grainews only the SkidCup 12 x16.5 skid steer tire and an irrigation pivot tire are currently available at the retail level in Canada. Another size of SkidCup and irrigation tire are due to be released soon, along with a 460/70CW24 telehandler tire. COVID-19 has upset the company’s production schedule, delaying the release of those larger tractor tires. And, he adds, there will be further announcements in the near future.
Galileo Wheel uses a wholesale distributor in Quebec, Garage Gaston Chartier and Fils Inc., to distribute tires to retailers here. And Dawson Tire and Wheel in Rosetown, Sask., currently retails CupWheel on the Prairies.
However, it is likely with those larger AgriCup tractor tires that Galileo can make the largest impact on the ag sector.
AgriCup tractor tires were recently tested at the Council for Agricultural Testing and Economics (CREA) in Italy. The CREA is one of a handful of independent equipment testing facilities in Europe (similar to the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab).
During testing they provided a 12 to 24 per cent increase in traction over the comparison Trelleborg radial tires used as a baseline. On average, the traction gain was 17.6 per cent.
The reason for that gain is primarily because of the extended footprint. And they contribute to lower overall ground pressure and compaction levels along with improved stability on varying terrain. Because they provide much less slippage, that translates into lower overall fuel consumption, which the CREA testing demonstrated could be significant over the life the tractor.
The latest tractor tire design shown last year includes a self-cleaning tread and new inner sidewall construction compared with the original prototype. The tires are designed to operate at low inflation pressures, and they can even be used when all pressure is lost.
For a detailed look at the AgriCup tire, visit galileowheel.com.