The ways in which such a tire could be useful are almost limitless, ranging from agriculture to military operations to automotive, sports and industrial machinery.
Currently, Tweels are being sold to operators of front-end loaders and soon, certain John Deere commercial mowers, but Michelin plans to eventually market them for passenger cars after “exhaustive research and testing,” Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America told Bloomberg.
Likewise, Bridgestone Americas Inc. and Hankook Tire Group, which have airless tires for other uses such as off-road vehicles and golf carts, are also working on prototypes for eventual passenger car use.
Selleck told the Greenville News that the Tweel is a “real game-changer” for operators of small front-end loaders called “skid steers” and commercial mowers because they average a flat tire a week. But the manufacturer plans to test the new tires on passenger cars in some “developing economies where bad roads dictate slow-moving passenger cars,” which can pave the way to broader rollouts.
Additional challenges for widespread use that Michelin and other manufacturers face include working with current safety regulations designed for air-filled tires and finding a cost-effective manufacturing method for the mass market, Clemson University Tweel researcher Joshua Summers told the Greenville News. Summers added that the first applications on passenger cars might be with electric vehicles.
The Tweel’s viability and reliability was recently demonstrated when three vehicles—a 2012 Honda CR-Z, a restoration modified 1955 Morris Minor Traveller, and an Aluma brand trailer hauling a Polaris ATV—equipped with Tweel tires in June, 2013 completed the entire 1,200-mile 2013 Hot Rod Power Tour from Arlington, Texas to Concord, N.C.
In addition, NASA’s Rover vehicles are now equipped with a version of Michelin’s Tweels called AB Scarab wheels, according to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
Do you see a way in which your firm might benefit from the use of Tweels? Discuss your ideas in the comment section below.