An idea first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the United States, the TWEEL is a revolutionary non-pneumatic tire that changed the configuration of a conventional tire, bringing together the tire and the wheel assembly into one solid unit. The TWEEL comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit.
Unlike conventional tires, the TWEEL has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tires that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.
Yes, at present the Tweel would seem to be confined to heavy duty activities of the sort described about, where spikey and scratchy things are constantly encountered, and where even a short amount of time is a lot of money. On regular, smooth roads, the Tweel does not now make sense.
But, I wonder what effect the switch to robot road vehicles might have. Might that, in some hard-to-foresee way, create an increased demand for the Tweel? If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that we cannot now be sure exactly what robot vehicles are going to look like, and exactly how they will go about their business. Will robot cars welcome the greater variety of terrains that Tweels would presumably make possible? Might it be better for the robot cars to have wheels that are unpuncturable, given that those wheels would no longer be guarded by human drivers? Who now knows?
More generally, it looks to me like further Tweel developments depend on improved materials, and improved materials is now something the world does very well. Simply, Tweels may become better and cheaper. That alone might cause them to replace what I am now inclined to call balloon-based wheels. But what do I know?
What I do now know is that the Tweel impresses me greatly.