Michelin unveils revolutionary airless vehicle wheel

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Michelin has revealed a one-piece wheel-and-tire combo that it says is ‘airless, connected, rechargeable, customisable and organic’.

The concept tire, or ‘tweel’ as it has been dubbed, is 3D printed from bio-sourced materials that include natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses and orange zest.

The Vision concept uses an interior architecture that mimics the natural cellular structures found in coral. The one-piece design is hard at the centre, gradually getting softer at the edges. This construction means the tire can never explode or blowout. The tread is designed with a minimal depth meaning the materials are applied in the most efficient way possible.

Terry Gettys, Michelin’s executive vice president of R&D, explained: “It’s inspired by nature with a very light, efficient structure.”

The Vision concept is embedded with sensors that monitor its condition and report back to its users via a mobile app. Drivers with the Vision concept would use the app to book it in for a recharge or to have the tread updated using 3D printers. The concept video below, shown at the launch, depicts a customer getting winter tires 3D printed onto the Vision before heading off to a mountainous area.

Getty added: “You might be thinking, ‘well, that’s a dream, and you’d be right. It is a dream. It’s a long-term concept which brings together our vision of all the elements of sustainable mobility.”

Michelin doesn’t have plans for mass production yet, but each component that makes up the concept is already an active research project at Michelin, meaning the tweel could be on the market in around 10 years.

Michelin is already leading the way in tweel technology. The company announced plans in 2014 to dedicate a production facility to making its tweel design which is used in commercial applications such as machinery and lawnmowers. The design uses a steel centre hub that bolts onto traditional axles, but the spokes are poly-resin and have the ability to move around obstacles.


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