Friday, November 28, 2014

Are airless tires about to go mainstream?

Back in 2009 I wrote about 'The search for the ultimate military tire', in which I reported on an airless tire being developed by a Wisconsin firm.  Now Michelin's built an entire plant to produce their incarnation of this idea.  The Telegraph reports:

Michelin has opened a new facility in South Carolina, USA, to produce its Tweel airless tyre.

Conceived by Michelin research engineers in the US, the Tweel is a non-pneumatic radial tyre that brings together the tyre and wheel assembly in one solid unit.

(Image courtesy of Michelin)

It comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit.

(Image courtesy of Michelin)

The Tweel is designed for commercial use, such as landscaping, construction and agriculture.

There's more at the link.  Here's Michelin's publicity video about the new plant.

There are more videos about the Tweel on YouTube.

I'm very glad to see this technology go in production on a large scale at last.  Its initial market will be construction, agricultural and mining machinery, but I hope it moves into mainstream motoring soon.  It'll be great to no longer have to worry about punctures or damaged sidewalls.



Old 1811 said...

I saw pictures of these Michelin tires in 2006 and thought, "What a great idea whose time has come." Then I never heard any more about them. I thought either there were problems (e.g., the spokes wouldn't hold up under the constant flexing), or Michelin had been paid off by the plutocrats of the Air Pump and Rubber Tire Plug Trust. But maybe not. We'll see.

dan said...

another spin-off from the space program (lunar rover)...but I battle to keep tires round and will welcome the innovation although I was hoping for hover capability,lol.

J G Pelham said...

Spin-off nothing
We've had compliant spoked wheels for a long time. Bicycle wheels absorb shock. They absorb in through antagonistic tension but they do absorb it. This is just a different material. I think we can sometimes love spacecraft too much and overreach in justifying it by saying other innovations came from the space race. I know the tires you are referring to. The lunar rover wheels were wire more like a bicycle than a Tweel

Rich S. said...

I'm waiting to see how the police react. Stop-sticks won't work on these tires.

Anonymous said...

Will become unbalanced if driving in mud or snow. Spokes need to be more enclosed.

Anonymous said...

The valve stem is the unchanged piece of technology on a modern vehicle--unchanged since tubes were still in tires. Kind of like a Mauser action in that regard.


Evan Price said...

Here's a Youtube vid I found a while back about retreading a Tweel:

jmyron said...

There are two major problems with these tires. First, they don't work well in cold weather - the plastics become too stiff. Second, if mud or ice gets into the tire, its a pain to clean out.

That being said in the right conditions, they work really well.

Also, Polaris will sell you a Sportsman outfitted with them for A Lot of money right now if you're interested.

Anonymous said...


I personally knew the Researcher who developed the tweel, and witnessed a few live demonstrations of them. One demo was on a segway, and the other was for the materials used.

One of those demonstrations was subjecting the composite materials to extreme cold temperatures. The composites survived. It was designed originally for use in space after all.

It would be nice if they would manufacture these ones with those materials, but I suspect that the production versions were tested for low temperature tolerance.

The unbalance due to foreign material is definitely a valid concern, and I don't recall whether or not this was explained to us at the time.

Coconut said...

A new technology that wouldn't be at all unfamiliar to a Roman.

Some things seem cyclical.