(Story via Edmunds AutoObserver) Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has developed a car tire containing a miniaturized air pump that can keep the tire at optimum pressure automatically, thereby saving its owners as much as 3.3% at the gas pump, the company told AutoObserver Monday. At today's prices, that translates to about 12 cents a gallon, and properly inflated tires also result in lower greenhouse-gas emissions, longer tire life, enhanced safety and improved vehicle performance, Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said.

"We're not saying a whole lot about that right now for obvious competitive reasons," Price said in a telephone interview. But, he said, Goodyear's Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) will enable tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the AMT system, including the miniaturized pump, are fully contained within the tire, he said.

Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear senior vice president and chief technical officer, said that while the technology is complex, the idea behind the AMT system is relatively simple and the system is powered by the tire itself as it rolls down the road. "A tire that can maintain its own inflation is something drivers have wanted for many years," Kihn said. "Goodyear has taken on this challenge and the progress we have made is very encouraging. This will become the kind of technological breakthrough that people will wonder how they ever lived without."

For now, the company is unwilling to discuss the availability or price of AMT tires. However, the U.S. Department of Energy has recently awarded Goodyear just under $1.5 million to research, develop and demonstrate the tires for commercial trucks, and the government of Luxembourg has awarded Goodyear an undisclosed sum to research and develop AMT tires for consumer use. The U.S. grant will be administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and work will be conducted at Goodyear's Innovation Center in Akron, Ohio. The consumer-tire R&D will be conducted at Goodyear's Innovation Center in Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg.

In addition, the DOE's Office of Vehicle Technology last week announced that it will award a $1.5 million grant for a joint project between PPG Industries and Goodyear to improve the rolling resistance and fuel efficiency of tires. The project's objective is to increase average fuel efficiency of passenger vehicle fleets through use of new tread and inner liner technologies. "Advanced technologies that are invisible to the human eye--like those we are working on with PPG--will help to dramatically improve fuel efficiency of tires while maintaining other important qualities such as traction and tread-life, Kihn said.