at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Michelin showcased a
potential future for mobility, an integrated tire and wheel combination
missing one ingredient that is vital for traditional tire performance....
air. The company unveiled the first real-world fitments for its
revolutionary "Tweel" - which operates entirely without air.
"Major revolutions in mobility may come along only once in a hundred
years," said Terry Gettys, president of Michelin Americas Research and
Development Center in Greenville, S.C. "But a new century has dawned and
Tweel has proven its potential to transform mobility. Tweel enables us to
reach levels of performance that quite simply aren't possible with today's
conventional pneumatic technology."
Tweel is in production and available as an enhancement for future iBOT(TM)
mobility systems. Invented by Dean Kamen, the iBOT(TM) mobility device has
the ability to climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain, offering mobility
freedom impossible with traditional wheelchairs. Additionally, Segway
LLC's Concept Centaur, a prototype that applies self-balancing technology
to a four-wheel device, has also been equipped with Tweel to increase its
Beyond these first real-world applications, Michelin has additional
projects for Tweel on construction skidsteers and a variety of military
vehicles. The most intriguing application may be Michelin's early
prototype Tweel fitment for passenger cars. The mobility company released
video of promising Tweel performance on an Audi A4.
Tweel automotive application, as demonstrated on the Audi, is definitely a
concept, a stretch application with strong future potential," said Gettys.
"Our concentration is to enter the market with lower-speed, lower-weight
Tweel applications. What we learn from our early successes will be applied
to Tweel fitments for passenger cars and beyond."
Benefits of Tweel(TM):
The heart of Tweel innovation is its deceptively simple looking hub and
spoke design that replaces the need for air pressure while delivering
performance previously only available from pneumatic tires. The flexible
spokes are fused with a flexible wheel that deforms to absorb shock and
rebound with unimaginable ease. Without the air needed by conventional
tires, Tweel still delivers pneumatic-like performance in weight-carrying
capacity, ride comfort, and the ability to "envelope" road hazards.
has also found that it can tune Tweel performances independently of each
other, which is a significant change from conventional tires. This means
that vertical stiffness (which primarily affects ride comfort) and lateral
stiffness (which affects handling and cornering) can both be optimized,
pushing the performance envelope in these applications and enabling new
performances not possible for current inflated tires. The Tweel prototype,
demonstrated on the Audi A4, is within five percent of the rolling
resistance and mass levels of current pneumatic tires. That translates to
within one percent of the fuel economy of the OE fitment. Additionally,
Michelin has increased the lateral stiffness by a factor of five, making
the prototype unusually responsive in its handling.
Future of Tweel(TM) Technology:
Michelin, Tweel is a long-term vision that represents the next step in a
long path of industry-changing innovations. Fifty years ago, Michelin
invented the radial tire and there is no question that radial tire
technology will continue as the standard for a long time to come. Michelin
continues to advance the performance of the radial tire in areas such as
rolling resistance, wear life and grip. In the short-term, the lessons
learned from Tweel research are being applied to improve those
conventional tire performances. In the future, Tweel may reinvent the way
that vehicles move. Checking tire pressure, fixing flats, highway
blow-outs and balancing between traction and comfort could all fade into
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