Tesla obtains patent for automatic tire inflation system for Tesla Semi electric truck

Today, Tesla was granted a patent for a new automatic tire inflation system enabling to adjust tire pressure in real-time in the upcoming Tesla Semi electric truck.

We reported on Tesla applying for a patent on the technology back in 2018 – shortly after the automaker unveiled the Tesla Semi electric truck. While Tesla didn’t specify if it will be designed for cars or trucks in the patent application, the inventor listed on the filing, John Furtado, has been working on the Tesla Semi program for Tesla.

He was specifically working on “brakes, brake controls, pneumatics, wheel ends, wheels and tires” for the Tesla Semi. The engineer left Tesla soon after submitting this patent to go work for his former employer Daimler Trucks, but he more recently came back to Tesla.

Many military vehicles and heavy workhorse trucks use Automatic Tire Inflation Systems (ATIS) in order to manage tire pressure and optimize driving on different surfaces.

Here’s a video of the Mercedes Unimog’s ATIS system:

However, Tesla describes “shortcomings” of existing systems in the original patent application:

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 those shortcomings, Tesla instead describes a more intelligent system with valves, bearings, and a rotary air seal.

The automaker wrote in the patent application:

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.

Here are a few drawings from the full patent application:

Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Tesla a patent for its version of an ATIS system.

It’s important to note that not all technologies that companies seek to secure with patents end up in commercial products.

Tesla has yet to fully unveil the production version of the Tesla Semi, but it did recently release images of four new trucks.

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