Recycled plastic tires go green — literally


Flat-proof tires Industry has been toying with plastic tires for decade

Tires on centre pivot irrigation systems have something in common with implement tires: if just one goes down, the whole machine goes down.

The tire issue for irrigators took a giant step forward this September when Dawson Tire and Wheel introduced its RhinoGator plastic puncture-proof pivot tires.

Like Henry Ford’s Model T, the RhinoGator comes in any colour a farmer would want, as long as it’s lime green.

According to Dawson, the new tire never goes flat. It is manufactured in two 180 degree halves that bolt together, fitting snugly on a standard sized pivot rim.

Each half is hollow inside but is encased in a special plastic so mud and water cannot get inside. Bolt holes are moulded into the flanges where the two halves join. The tires are easily installed using standard wrenches.

The high-density plastic resin was engineered specifically for the daily rigours of a pivot tire. The formula accounts for weight, torque stress, exposure to sunlight and resistance to chemicals. The formula includes renewable plastic made from corn.

“We have done some very vigorous testing and we haven’t had one crack or leak yet,” said Kacie Morris, marketing manager at Dawson.

“We field tested for thousands of hours, plus we’ve sold 700 tires. We’ve had no reports of problems of any kind.”

The bright lime green RhinoGator tires are manufactured in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and many have been sold in the immediate area.

Some irrigators say they like the tires because they’re easy to spot in the field when they need to do maintenance work.

Joe Wahlgren installed six RhinoGators on three quarter-section pivots this year.

“We wanted three different environments, three different crops, so we could monitor them and make comparisons,” he said.

The tread design was engineered for maximum traction in wet soil because a pivot tire runs only in wet conditions. The non-directional lugs ensure that the tire has maximum traction travelling clockwise or counter-clockwise.

The rigid centre rib allows engineers to use a lower profile sidewall for added strength.

RhinoGator tires can be used in combination with conventional rubber tires of the same size.

They are available in the three standard sizes for pivots: 11.2-38, 11.2-24 and 11-24.5.

“We had no structural issues,” Wahlgren said.

“There’s air inside, but they’re not pressurized, so they won’t collapse if there’s a puncture. They’re made of rigid structural plastic that will support them if there’s a leak. They never go down.”

He said there was no sign of deterioration from chemicals or sunlight this summer, which was the first year he used the tires. The lug design gave him good traction in all conditions, he added.

Tim Schmeeckle put RhinoGator tires on two of his quarter section pivots. They were first generation tires sold in limited quantities before the official rollout in September.

“I’m going to put them on all my pivots, gradually over time as the rubber tires need replacement. Eventually, all 14 pivots will be on plastic tires,” he said.

“The idea is that we just install them and then forget about them. The traction is good. I’m happy so far.”

Morris said Dawson doesn’t plan to expand into heavier machines such as tractors, high clearance sprayers and combines.

“(As for Canada,) at this time we do not have any Canadian dealers, but we will be looking to expand into Canada once sales pick up more.”

The RhinoGator carries a list price of $495 per tire.

For more information, contact Eric MacPherson at 308-537-7408 or visit www.rhinogator.com.