Pneumatic tyres may soon become a thing of the past thanks to tweel airless tyres being developed by Michelin, one of the leading tyre manufacturers in the world. While the concept of building tyres without air may seem unlikely, in reality tweel tyres have been tested and demonstrated by Michelin on several occasions. The tweel derives its name from the tyre and wheel – which come together to bring a revolutionary concept in tyre design.
Construction of a Tweel Tyre (Source: Wikipedia)
Unlike traditional pneumatic tyres that are mounted on a rim, filled with air and sealed, tweel ones consist of a hub with flexible spokes. The tread of tweel tyres is made with rubber and is bonded to the polyurethane hub. The spokes are fused with the tread and as they are flexible, they can change shape along with the tyre tread. The spokes of the tweel can return to the original shape instantly and absorb shocks while rolling. To complete the construction of a tweel tyre, a sheer band along with a layer of rubber is wrapped around the tyre providing grip on the roads.
Although tweel tyres have a different design and construction as compared to pneumatic tyres, they have similar characteristics including load carrying capacity, comfort, traction, resistance and road holding. One of the biggest benefits of tweel tyres is undoubtedly the robustness that they offer. With tweel airless tyres, punctures are impossible. Therefore, they are safer and more convenient for the driver. According to Michelin, the tread of the tweel tyres is designed to last up to three times longer than that of regular tyres and can be retreaded just like conventional tyres.
Tweel tyres from Michelin will take some time before they are out on the roads. Still under research, Tweel tyres can only run at about 50 miles per hour comfortably. At higher speeds, tweel tyres begin to vibrate excessively, producing high levels of heat and noise. Therefore, they are not yet suited for high-speed, long-distance travel. However, tweel tyres are being used in construction vehicles and other applications where speeds are low. Recently, Michelin tested the Tweel on the Audi A4 and demonstrated its use on personal mobility devices for physically challenged people. However, the possibilities of use for the tweel tyres are immense in rough terrain areas like military use and agriculture.
Michelin does not plan to roll out the tweel tyres for consumers very soon and when it does, there are still several challenges that have to be overcome. Although the production costs of the tweel might be less as the tweel tyres have only four components as compared to twenty three components of conventional tyres, manufacturers may not been keen to redesign and rebuilt their facilities to produce Tweel tyres. Michelin is not the only tyre brand to research airless tyres and will face competition from other companies who are developing similar tyres like Resilient Technologies.
Tweel tyres from Michelin are one of the most revolutionary concepts in tyre technology that has the potential to change the way the world travels.