BLOWOUTS, PUNCTURES and forecourt air machines that swallow loose change and rarely work could all be committed to the history books as Michelin commences production of its revolutionary non-pneumatic Tweel tyre.
The Tweel, which was first seen as a concept in 2005, replaces the traditional tyre and wheel assembly with one unit. Comprising a rigid hub connected to an I-beam-shaped rim by flexible polyurethane spokes, the Tweel is well suited to rugged off-road vehicles.
Michelin has just opened an American factory in Piedmont, South Carolina, dedicated to the manufacture of the device. The company is investing around $50m (£32m) in the facility.
The puncture-proof wheels will be first fitted to the US firm John Deere’s coming line of commercial mowers but could soon be expanded to other slow-speed applications, such as farm machinery and quad bikes.
There are no plans to develop the airless wheel for roadgoing vehicles, although tests on saloon cars have taken place.