Is This The Next Generation Of Tires?
If you’re tired (pun intended) of your tires constantly running out of air, getting punctures or has its rims constantly getting bent, then you may be very interested in this brand new invention by famed tire makers Michelin.
For the past century or so, most vehicles have been using the classic pneumatic tires, filled with air and encased in rubber. The classic tire has served drivers and their passengers very well, but now, Michelin is looking to improve on the classic.
Introducing the Tweel Airless Tire.
Tweel is a play on words for Tire & Wheel because the Tweel doesn’t use a traditional wheel hub assembly. It’s essentially a solid inner hub mounted to the axle and surrounded by polyurethane spokes arrayed in a pattern of wedges. A shear band is stretched across the spokes, forming the outer edge of the tire, which comes in contact with the road. The tension of the shear band on the spokes and the strength of the spokes themselves replace the air pressure of a traditional tire.
How it works is that when the Tweel is put to the road, the spokes absorb road impacts the same way air pressure does in pneumatic tires. The tread and shear bands deform temporarily as the spokes bend, then quickly spring back into shape. Tweels can be made with different spoke tensions, allowing for different handling characteristics. However, you can’t adjust a Tweel once it has been manufactured.
First announced back in 2005, Michelin said that “the Tweel prototype… is within five percent of the rolling resistance and mass levels of current pneumatic tires. That translates to mean within one percent of the fuel economy” of the tires on your own car.
However, the Tweel does have several flaws. One of the most noticable is the vibration. At above 80km/h, the Tweel is susceptible to considerable vibration, which can be overlooked by some people. However, it causes two other problems, which is the noise and heat-generation. Tweels moving fast is both loud, and much hotter than a conventional tire.
Another problem involves the tire manufacturing industry as a whole. Making Tweels are a much different process than making a pneumatic tire. At this point in time, the massive number of changes that will need to be implemented in tire producing factories, as well as the tire balancing and mounting equipment in thousands of auto repair shops, presents a significant challenge if the Tweel is to be accepted widely.
Due to these inherent problems, Michelin is still considering against a wide release of the Tweel to the general consumers. At this time, Michelin is focusing on developing the Tweel for use in low-speed applications, such as on construction vehicles and military vehicles, because the high-speed vibration problems won’t come into play, and the ruggedness of the airless design will be a major advantage on a construction site or ravaged warzone.
What do you think about the Tweel? Leave a comment below!