The first commercially available tyre and tube as a single unit are finally here, and you’d be excused if you thought it was strange that we invented autonomous vehicles before we came up with this join the queue. Made by Michelin, this new invention is called the Tweel, a play on both words ‘tyre’ and ‘wheel’ – it’s designed for small industrial vehicles and competition-spec SUVs and UTVs. The type that likes to crawl up rocks and wade through mud and spend the better part of the day winching themselves out of the mud. The Tweels fits exactly where one would have the traditional two-piece wheel and tyre combination. What sets the Tweel apart is its ability to deform and reform the circular shape when the terrain gets tough to increase the contact patch, there is no air loss involved over rough terrain since the tyre has no air chamber to be punctured. The video below shows the Tweel’s initial phases of testing on an industrial vehicle but uses more or less the same principle.
The SUV oriented wheel which is now also on sale from Michelin is built to fit two PCD sizes 4x137 and 4x156 bolt arrangements, with more on the way. The tyre itself is a 26-inch solid rubber unit bends when needed and can take on kerbs, rocks, boulders and even jagged edges with zero damage. This also means that this will allow the tyre to last much much longer than an average tyre, considering how much less damage it affords. None of this comes for cheap though, at $750 a piece (Rs 51,000), four tyres could set you back by about the cost of a new small car. Amazingly this unstoppable piece of rubber is rated up to 60 kmph, which is ideal for an off-road oriented vehicle.
If you are wondering as to when you will see a Tweel on a conventional car, it is unlikely that it will ever make it, considering that normal cars don’t have space in their wheel arches for the kind of deformation that the Tweel is capable off. Also, the Tweel isn’t great for handling which is why it's probably never going to make it to street cars. Although that doesn’t make it any less cool.