Michelin rolls out airless tyre


Michelin wheeled out its airless tyre at the North American Motor Show yesterday, describing it this time as "the first real-world fitment" (see link below for earlier story). And it might coming to a car near you soon.

Michelin's Tweel is in production and available as an enhancement for future iBOT mobility systems for the disabled. Invented by Dean Kamen, the iBOT mobility device can climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain, offering mobility freedom impossible with traditional wheelchairs.

Beyond these first real-world applications, Michelin said it has additional projects for Tweel on construction skidsteers and a variety of military vehicles.

The most intriguing application may be Michelin's early prototype Tweel fitment for passenger cars. The mobility company released a video of Tweel running under an Audi A4.

"The Tweel automotive application, as demonstrated on the Audi, is definitely a concept, a stretch application with strong future potential," said Michelin's research boss Terry Gettys. "Our concentration is to enter the market with lower-speed, lower-weight Tweel applications. What we learn from our early successes will be applied to Tweel fitments for passenger cars and beyond."

What is a Tweel?

The heart of Tweel innovation is its simple-looking hub and spoke design that replaces the need for air pressure while delivering performance that Michelin claimed is akin to that of pneumatic tyres. The flexible spokes are fused with a flexible wheel that deforms to absorb shock and rebound easily. Without the air needed by conventional tyres, Tweel still delivers pneumatic-like performance in weight-carrying capacity, ride comfort, and the ability to envelop road hazards, reckoned the company.

Michelin said it had found that it can tune Tweel performances independently of each other, which is a significant change from conventional tyres. This means that vertical stiffness (which primarily affects ride comfort) and lateral stiffness (which affects handling and cornering) can both be optimised, improving performance and enabling new performances not possible for current inflated tires.

The Tweel prototype, demonstrated on the Audi A4, is within five per cent of the rolling resistance and mass levels of standard tyres so fuel economy should be almost unaffected, said Michelin. Michelin said it had increased the lateral stiffness by a factor of five, making the prototype unusually responsive in its handling.

Future of Tweel technology

For Michelin, Tweel is a long-term vision that represents the next step in a long path of industry-changing innovations. The lessons learned from Tweel research are being applied to improve conventional tyre performances, according to Michelin. In the future, Tweel may reinvent the way that vehicles move. Tyre maintenance and balancing between traction and comfort could all fade into memory, said the company.

Comments (30) Join the discussion on the forum

  • nerfherder 18 Jan 2012

    Codswallop said:
    Presumably, the realisation that there's a lot more money to be made in selling puncturable tyres.

  • Codswallop 18 Jan 2012

    nerfherder said:
    So, did anything come of this?
    Presumably, the realisation that there's a lot more money to be made in selling puncturable tyres.

  • nerfherder 18 Jan 2012

    So, did anything come of this?

  • sprinter885 14 Feb 2006

    Dodgey_Rog said:
    sprinter885 said:
    I can see the bad guys laughing all the way FROM the bank. Picture the scene of crooks chasing off in your PAJ with loot in boot & a STINGER thrown out in front. Hmmmmm !!!

    They have that blanket thats when the car goes over it, it somehow clogs the wheels up and brings it to a nice stop. Think i saw it on Police Stop or some other turd cop show......

    So its not impossible to stop the Tweel!!!!

    Doesn't that depend on the cops having a picnic blanket in the boot at the time?? Seriously thou' I think I've seen it too.

    andy.shent said:
    regarding the use of stingers to stop the baddy by deflating his tyres no longer being any use, The police have already come up with a new tool to stop the vehicle fitted with these new "Tweel,s" It comprises of a long stick held by the officer as the vehicle goes by he pushes the stick in to the gap between the spokes! If I remember rightly it used to work with push bikes when I was a kid!

    So it was YOU!!-Nasty but effective!!-- does that also mean you can attach fag cards etc to rattle on the spokes as they rotate & give you that cheap motor bike noise?? Cool- ahh back to my youth.

  • YarisSi 13 Feb 2006

    The quad is made by the guys that make the two wheel balancing thing (soory I have completely fogotten the name of it) but they have lots of videos of it on the website and its very cool.

    Another new toy the police have is a hand held or grill mounted gun that shoots a gps tracer onto car and then they just work out where its going. The stories in one of the papers.

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