Michelin Tire Company Invents a Tire That Does Not Require Air

One of the companies well known for its tires is Michelin.  The headquarters of this company is located in France but it has plants in Germany, Spain, the USA, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Italy and other countries.  This company also manufactures the brands BFGoodrich, Riken, Kleber, Kormoran and Unirol.  It has been named the largest tire manufacturer in the world.

From its beginning, this company has been occupied with bringing innovations in the construction of tires.  In 1936, they introduced a tire with foam lining that, if punctured, would still run.   They were also the ones who brought the radial tire to the market place.

Their most recent innovation has been the Tweel Airless Tire, introduced in 2005.  This tire does not use a wheel hub assembly, it has a solid inner hub, which mounts to the axle.  This takes the place of the traditional tire, which requires air to keep it inflated.

This solid inner hub is surrounded by polyurethane spokes, which resemble wedges and are fastened into a metal rim.  A sheer band of rubber, with tread, is then placed over that rim.  There is no air in these tires and it is the spokes that absorb the road impact by bending and then springing back into shape.  These spokes can be adjusted for needed spoke tensions.  Michelin states, “The Tweel prototype…is within five percent of the rolling resistance and mass levels of current pneumatic tires”.

However, at the current time there have been a number of problems with this new tire concept.  These include a heavy vibration and a loud noise when a vehicle reaches 50 miles per hour.  There is also an accumulation of heat and it has 5 percent more friction that the traditional radial tires.

As development progresses it is expected that the first issues of this concept will be for wheel chairs, scooters and other light, slow speed vehicles, followed by small construction equipment.  The government military is looking on this tire as an addition to their equipment as tests have shown it will stay mobile even when the spokes are damaged.  It is stated “The tread can be as specialized as any of today’s tires and is replaceable when worn.”  NASA has expressed interest in using it on their next lunar vehicle.

There is no doubt that having a tire/wheel that will eliminate flat tires would be a great advantage to all areas of mobile transportation.  However, it is difficult to see if these will ever be effective with the trucking industry.  There would definitely have to be extreme tests regarding how long the applied outer band would last when hauling heavy loads.  In addition, there is the question if the spokes would be resistant to the wear and tear of long haul travel.   Currently other tire companies are also exploring the concept of this type of tire.

When purchasing tires for a tractor and or trailer there is a great deal to be considered.  Various companies offer what seems like great buys but it sometimes turns out that in the long run they do not wear well and actually cost more money than buying better ones to start with.  It is important to look at the quality not the cost when putting tires on your vehicle.

For example, tread wear is tested under test conditions and is graded better (greater than 100), baseline (100) and poorer (less than 100).  For traction, there is A-best, B-intermediate, and C-acceptable.  Naturally, a trucker wants the best tread wear and traction possible, as they will reduce the number of times tires must be replaced.  Always check out the statistics prior to making a purchase if you want a long lasting tire.

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