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Tokyo Motor Show: New tires don't need air – or oil

Tokyo Motor Show is where tiremakers are showing off next generation tires that don't need air and aren't made from oil. Prototypes at Tokyo Motor Show emphasize recyclable, biodegradable materials.

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Visitors inspect a Porsche Boxster during the Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo on Tuesday. Tiremakers are showing off tire models that are made from recyclable materials and, in one case, doesn't need to be filled with air.

Koji Sasahara/AP

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Major Japanese tire manufacturers have released prototypes of next-generation products with more environmentally friendly features just in time for this year's Tokyo Motor Show: a tire that does not need air to inflate and another made only of nonpetroleum materials.

Bridgestone Corp.'s new "air-free" tire uses a special kind of meshlike resin on the sides of the tire to support a vehicle's weight. According to the company, all materials used in the tire are recyclable.

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At the motor show, which runs through Sunday, Bridgestone is exhibiting an electric single-seat scooter using a prototype of the new tire.

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"The tires can absorb enough shocks to allow you to enjoy a comfortable ride," an official said.

On the other hand, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has released a prototype of a new tire that does not use petroleum or any other kinds of fossil fuels by replacing them with plant-derived additives.

The company will study the durability of the tire and develop techniques for mass production before its planned sale starting in 2013, Sumitomo said.

Meanwhile, fuel-saving tires currently available on the market have also been improved. Toyo Tire & Rubber Ltd. announced this week that it would start selling a new tire in February that can meet the highest grade for fuel savings while simultaneously improving brake performance on wet road surfaces.

The Yokohama Rubber Co. has also been selling a snow tire featuring superior brake performance on frozen road surfaces.