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[Photo via ESPN]

If you want to drive like a rocketeer, or maybe you just don’t want to be bothered with checking your air pressure, then take a look at the Tweel.

Airless tires could solve a number of problems associated with pneumatic tire technology.

The Tweel, an experimental tire and wheel combination developed by Michelin, is designed to replace today’s air-filled tires. Flexible polyurethane spokes deflect over obstacles.

The technology has been under development for a few years.

Recently, I had a flat on my vehicle, and left the spare off of the holder while the repair was being done. I realized how heavy the tires on the car are every time I opened or closed the back gate. Tires weigh at least a couple hundred pounds of the vehicle’s weight, decreasing fuel economy through inertia. I doubt that the tweel as configured would work well in snowy driving, it looks like the snow and ice would jam into the gaps and throw the balance way off, making for a very bumpy ride. Certainly, there are people working up solutions to that problem.

[Thanks Sandy!]


Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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Comments

  1. Simon says:

    “Tires weigh at least a couple hundred pounds of the vehicle’s weight”.

    No they don’t. I weighed the wheels of my car, both the old 14 inch steel wheels and the new 15 inch alloys and interestingly in both cases they weighed 16 kg each. From memory the hubs themselves are 5-7kg. So tire weight is about 10kg. The actual weight of the tyres isn’t anywhere near several hundred pounds. This is on a smallish sports car. Your average passenger vehicle should be similar. Don’t know what giant, awful American cars have though?

    Simon

  2. Jeff says:

    It sure will change the way law enforcement will have to deal with pursuits. Won’t be able to disable with spike strips. Hmmm… sounds like a job for makers to figure out a new way to disable a vehicle.

    1. wikityler says:

      Banana peel deployment.

    2. Mark says:

      …just keep in mind: the Policeman’s job is only easy in a police state.

  3. Drew says:

    Ironic, Michelin was one of the first companies to push air-filled tires.

    1. Sanfam says:

      Not terribly ironic. It’s just the next step forward. Pneumatic tires came after the era of solid-core tires with were technically easy to manufacture using the mechanisms of the day, but were poor on handling, safety, and comfort. Following that, we received advances in pneumatic tire composition, such as the shift toward steel belting and radial ply. Each of these changes brought with it advances in safety and comfort. The shift from bias to radial may not even seem too significant, as the core technology remained pneumatic with a supporting mesh, but the change in handling characteristics and load tolerance made for worlds of difference. The technology here would have either been expensive or outright impossible back in the day.

      Also, it looks neat.

  4. Mike says:

    I personally remember seeing tires similar to this in Popular Science about 3 years ago. I personally don’t know if they will ever catch on as it seems much of the great ideas end up disappearing. It would be nice though to not worry about having deflated tires. I am sure this would help with fuel effeciency as well given that it would maintain its circular form more easily.

  5. brian says:

    Cool concept, but I don’t see how they think these will “Last forever.”

    Give em to one irresponsible kid in a sports car, and he’ll burn off enough to cause an accident in a week’s time with such a low profile of tread.

    1. trebuchet03@gmail.com says:

      I don’t see anyone claiming it will last forever. In fact, that’s a selling point of the tweel – you don’t need to replace the entire assembly, just the outer shear band and tread. I imagine the spokes would eventually need replacement – but it’s possible whereas replacing a tire’s sidewall is not.

      I also see no reason why tread section would be any different in depth than today’s “traditional” tire.

      That said, the tweel is still in it’s infancy – it was 40+ years between the patent of a pneumatic tire and it’s commercialization (of course, that was a different era). We’ll likely see the tweel on extraterrestrial terrain before we see it on our cars :p

  6. inchirierimasini.myopenid.com says:

    The zero pressure spare tyre is under development by Amerityre in response to a growing concern among consumers and government car orientated agencies such as The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for post-crash fires caused by fuel leakage in high-impact rear collisions. A high-pressure pneumatic spare tyre’s close proximity, in most cases, to the fuel tank can be an explosion hazard for vehicles involved in high-impact rear collisions. A zeropressure spare tyre reduces the risk of causing an explosion.