In another indication that the Tesla Semi is not just an elaborate stunt to generate investor interest, or a whim project from mercurial founder Elon Musk, Tesla Inc. is seeking a patent for an automatic tire inflation system that will “overcome the shortcomings” of systems currently on the market, the company says.
The recently published application, originally submitted April 13 to the US Patent and Trademark Office, is designed to “significantly reduce contamination” in the ATIS air stream.
“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,” the description reads. “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.”
The Tesla ATIS, in contrast, includes a controller, valves controlled by the controller, the valves having an air supply inlet, and “a plurality of air outlets.”
“Further,” the application says, “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.”
For those readers to whom this language makes sense, the complete document is available from USPTO. For everyone else, the application drawings with brief descriptions are included above.
The Semi received only passing mention in Tesla’s most recent earnings call, however, as Musk said he was “most excited” about the Tesla pickup truck. “It's like … I think it's going to reach the next-level stuff there.” Also on the Oct. 24 call, Musk said he had approved the Model Y entry-level crossover for production, with full production slated for 2020.
An ATIS conceivably could be applied to these smaller vehicles to enhance off-road driving capability.