Truck wheel
2017 Toyota Hilux Wheel. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

It’s very likely that you have encountered a flat tyre in your lifetime, and you’re not alone. Pneumatic tyres (tyres filled with air) have been popping and stranding millions for years. The worst thing about this is that flat tyres often catch people by surprise at the worst of times. They’re also dangerous, not only causing traffic accidents but being stranded on the side of the road has its own disadvantages.

A long time ago, pneumatic tyres replaced solid rubber tyres, which were heavy and had a limited ability to absorb shock waves. Pneumatic tyres contribute to improved ride quality because the air in the tyres compresses a little and acts as a cushion. Despite appearing simple, tyre design is a very complicated science and requires a certain balance of traction, durability, minimal rolling resistance, and shock absorption capabilities.

The Tweel, developed by the French manufacturer Michelin, has promised to eliminate pneumatic tyres (eventually) by incorporating flexible spoke-like rims that can bend/compress substantially to help maintain traction, absorb bumps and transcend somewhat large obstacles such as curbs. The Tweel is currently only available for Utility Task Vehicles (UTV) and is rated for a maximum speed of 37 mph.

This means that some off-road vehicles could benefit from this, but further development is required for cars to enable them to travel at highway speeds. The extent to which the Tweels are compressible (and cushy) is incredible, to say the least. They may even rival the capabilities of springs and shock absorbers in the future.

Polaris also makes their own airless tyres, with a honeycomb-like design for the WV850 H.O. ATV.

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