Tweel : The Airless Tire

Michelin, the world’s largest tire maker, is developing an airless tire named Tweel (a combination of a tire and a wheel). Invented at Michelin’s North American research center in Greenville, S.C, this revolutionary non-pneumatic tire solves the common problem of getting a flat tire, as their invention cannot be punctured. Tweel has many benefits such as being maintenance-free and providing shock absorption as well as ride comfort while improving handling with its suspension-like characteristics.

Tweel is made up of a composite reinforced tread band bonded to the hub by rectangular, polyurethane spokes, which are fused with a deformable wheel that absorbs shocks and rebounds effortlessly.

The company explains that the Tweel is meant to be easily re-treadable thanks to its hub and spoke design. The Tweel has been tested on Audi A4 as well as on skid-steer loaders, which reportedly felt fewer bumps and less vibration.

“Our concentration is to enter the market with lower-speed, lower-weight Tweel applications such as iBOT, Centaur and skidsteer. What Michelin learns from its early successes will be applied to Tweel fitments for passenger cars and beyond,” states Michelin.

The Tweel still has several flaws. Above 50 mph, the Tweel vibrates considerably. This also causes two other things: noise and heat. At high speeds the Tweel is reportedly unpleasantly loud. Additionally, for long-distance driving at high speeds the Tweel generates more heat than is considered expectable which might lead to premature failure. Additional development will be needed to counter these issues.

TFOT also covered the Sidewinder – a new concept of a vehicle capable of moving in all directions. Each wheel has its own independent electric motor, transmission, brake system and controller. Driving the Sidewinder is performed using two joysticks, which control the speed and direction of all four wheels through the use of a specially programmed microprocessor known as the vehicle master controller. TFOT also covered an entirely different concept for improved maneuverability (or actually improved visibility) developed by Nissan, named Pivo.

More information about Michelin’s Tweel can be found at the company’s website.

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