You Can Now Buy the Michelin Tweel Magical Airless Tire
There's just one catch.
They say it's pointless to try and reinvent the wheel, but Michelin has been at it for over a decade with its airless "tweel" concept. The rubber-spoked tire-wheel combo remains more of a weird curiosity than anything else, but that could change as the company unveils its first true consumer version: the 26-inch X Tweel UTV, designed for all-terrain and utility vehicle use. You'll have a wait a bit longer to slap some future on your car, though.
In a tweel, flexible rubber spokes engineered to bend just so and spring back into shape connect the external tread to the custom wheel hub, replacing the cushion of compressed air in a conventional tire. With no air, that means there's no such thing as a flat, while better side-to-side stability is an added bonus. Michelin has only made tweels for golf carts and small construction vehicles like forklifts thus far, but the video announcing the X Tweel UTV shows the concept works just fine off-road.
That's a Can-Am Commander side-by-side and a Can-Am Outlander ATV seen in the demonstration clips, neither of which have any trouble bouncing through mud or hopping over obstacles at a variety of speeds. It all looks promising—as you'd expect for a demo—with the spokes deforming to the terrain similar to the way an aired-down tire would behave and the deep tread digging in like it should.
The tweel is available with several different four-bolt central steel hubs to fit UTVs from a variety of manufacturers, including Kawasaki and Polaris. Hubs for Honda, Kubota, and John Deere are reportedly due later this year. At $750 per tweel, though, the future certainly ain't cheap.
And lest you think this is a sign of things to come for your actual car, these wheels are only rated to 38 mph, and Michelin doesn't have any plans for a full-size model on this or any other planet just yet. Other companies like Bridgestone have also introduced their own airless tire designs, but those too are aimed at smaller forms of transportation like bicycles. Sadly, it will still be a while before you can ditch those horrible run-flats.