Michelin showcases airless tire at North American Auto Show

Jan. 10, 2005

Groupe Michelin displayed its completely airless Tweel tire and wheel combination at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., yesterday.

"Tweel enables us to reach levels of performance that quite simply aren´t possible with today´s conventional pneumatic technology," says Terry Gettys, president of Michelin Americas Research and Development Center in Greenville, S.C.

The Tweel system uses a hub and spoke design in which flexible spokes are fused with a flexible wheel that deforms to absorb shock and then rebounds.

Michelin claims Tweel delivers pneumatic-like performance in weight-carrying capacity, ride comfort and the ability to "envelope" road hazards, and is within 5% of the rolling resistance and mass levels of current air-filled tires.

Michelin has developed a prototype Tweel fitment for passenger cars. It has released a video "promising Tweel performance on an Audi A4. The Tweel automotive application, as demonstrated on the Audi, is definitely a concept, a stretch application with strong future potential," says 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 cars and beyond."

The technology is in production and is currently available as an enhancement for future iBOT mobolity systems, which allow disabled people to climb stairs and navigate difficult terrain that traditional wheelchairs can´t.

"Michelin has additional projects for Tweel on construction skidsteers and a variety of military vehicles."

The concept was first unveiled last September.