What will the tyre of the future look like?
Tomorrow, the tyre will no longer exist, because the air will have been replaced by innovative technology and materials. The wheel will not only be used for rolling and braking, but for driving and suspension. A look into the Michelin labs.
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Research is an essential department for all major manufacturers. Their R&D centres take up a quite considerable proportion of investments (up to 4% of sales revenues).
Avenues for research are numerous. Here are some explored by Michelin, the world's number 1 tyre with Bridgestone. They may appear on the market within the next ten or so years.
This is an airless tyre, which cannot puncture and requires no maintenance. It includes a radial composite material structure, designed to last as long as the vehicle it is fitted to. A rubber tread is glued to this structure. When worn it just needs to be retreaded.
Michelin's Tweel concept (a contraction of Tire and Wheel) explores the integration of the tyre and the wheel. Airless and retreadable like the Airless, it is comprised of a rubber tread, linked to the hub by means of flexible spokes. The flexible spokes are connected to a wheel and bend to absorb shocks, springing back just as easily. The traditional shock absorbency of the air is ensured by the highly flexible spokes.
Michelin Active Wheel
This is the most spectacular technological advance. This wheel incorporates the main functions of a vehicle: traction, suspension, braking and drive. It is fitted with a powerful electrical motor and an active suspension and braking system. This wheel will be incorporated in electrical vehicle operating by means of a battery or fuel cell. With this type of wheel, the vehicle will no longer need a gearbox, clutch, universal joint, anti-roll bar or transmission shaft.
Sources: Michelin site