After decades of research and failed attempts, the tire industry has demonstrated something almost as good as a gas tank that’s always full—an airless tire.
The challenge has been to design a tire that needs no air but is still squishy enough to maintain a solid grip on the road.
Michelin calls its creation the “Tweel,” a combined tire and wheel.
It consists of a limber, treaded outer rim that is connected to a center metal wheel by flexible spokes.
The hard, rubberized spokes replace the air in a conventional tire.
The spokes flex up and down, allowing the outer rim to flatten slightly against the road in the same way that a normal tire does.
The spokes’ stiffness is tunable vertically, which determines ride comfort, and horizontally, which controls handling, Michelin says.
General Motors has partnered with Michelin in creating the new “Uptis” tire, as the Tweel has been christened, and will introduce it in some production models as early as 2024.
TRENDPOST: About 200 million tires hit the scrap pile each year because of punctures; millions more are junked early because underinflation causes needless wear, Michelin says.
The Tweel not only eliminates that waste, but also requires less material to make than a conventional tire and may last as much as three times longer, according to Michelin, making the Tweel a win for the environment as well as for drivers.
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