Published on January 29, 2005
MICHELIN LETS THE AIR OUT OF FUTURE TIRE INNOVATION
Michelin announces two fitments for its revolutionary non-pneumatic Tweel™
DETROIT, MI (Jan. 9, 2005) – Today 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.”
Michelin’s Tweel is in production and available as an enhancement for future iBOT™ mobility systems. Invented by Dean Kamen, the iBOT™ 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.
“The 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™:
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.
Michelin 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
Future of Tweel™ Technology:
For 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 memory.
The world’s largest tire maker, Michelin (www.michelin.com) manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles and the space shuttle. The company also publishes travel guides, maps and atlases covering Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America employs 23,000 and operates 21 plants in 17 locations.