- DETROIT, M.I. (January 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. View the photo gallery.
- "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 performance potential.
- 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 handling.
- 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.
- About Michelin:
- 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.