For over a 100 years, vehicles have relied on rubber tires filled with air to roll them down the road.
And while these tires have continuously improved in performance, efficiency and tread life, the basic design of a pneumatic tire and the way it’s mounted onto a wheel has remained relatively unchanged, until now.
According to Michelin, a new airless tire dubbed the “Tweel” will be entering production in Piedmont, SC, on November 20 for commercial vehicles such as skid steer loaders and various John Deere lawnmowers. The name “Tweel” is a combination of the word tire and wheel because it combines a wheel and tire into one.
The new design consists of four main components – a solid inner hub (mounted to the axle like a traditional wheel), polyurethane spokes arrayed in a pattern of wedges, a shear band stretched across the spokes (which replace the air pressure of a traditional tire), and the tread attached to the outside layer of the shear band.
And while they not only look badass from the Michelin videos, they also make the inconveniences of a traditional tire obsolete. Since the tires have no air, you’ll never have to worry about tire pressure or the tire going flat. The tires deform around most obstacles, meaning they should be more durable compared to air-filled tires.
Michelin also claims that the Tweel will offer three times the wear life of a traditional, pneumatic tire.
But with all its glory, the Tweel still has its flaws. At speeds above 50mph (80km/h), the Tweel generates considerable vibration, and, what would be considered by today’s standards to be intolerable noise. Making the Tweel is also a vastly different process than making a pneumatic tire and would involve complete revamping of manufacturing processes. Mounting equipment in auto repair shops would also require overhauling to allow for the adoption of airless tires.
For these reasons, Michelin is not planning to roll out the Tweel for consumer vehicles just yet. The technology is still early in development, and pneumatic tires probably wont be phasing out like incandescent light bulbs any time soon.
News Source: SlashGear