PARIS (Sept. 24) — Groupe Michelin is debuting two extended-mobility tire innovations at the Paris Motor Show, a non-pneumatic, retreadable composite concept tire and tire/wheel hybrid dubbed "Tweel."
The Michelin Airless is a radial torus structure made of high-performance composite materials to which a rubber tread is bonded. Since the tire does not depend on pressurized air to keep it inflated, it is described as maintenance-free.
The second innovation, the Tweel, is a non-pneumatic wheel, made up of a rubber tread bonded to the hub through flexible spokes. Tweels could be fitted on vehicles with small wheels, such as wheelchairs, thus improving the mobility of disabled people substantially.
Michelin said it is working on a range of other applications, including smaller earthmover and military vehicles, to take advantage of the Tweel's terrain-resistant properties.
Didier Miraton, head of research and development for Michelin, reportedly said at a briefing prior to the start of the show that these products would be well-suited for use on pothole-riddled roads in less developed countries but fast-growing countries, like China and India.
Michelin did not disclose which composite materials it is using in the concepts, but Miraton is quoted as saying they potentially could make Michelin less reliant on natural rubber.
Michelin describes the Airless as a "fly trap," in recognition of the original radial tire prototype from the 1940s, which was a series of metallic arches arranged radially around a wheel hub and to which a rubber tread was bonded.