Whatever Moves You

by Dennis Machicao

The automobile wheel and tire have been around, well, ever since the automobile was introduced. The tire has evolved throughout the years to meet the ever-redesigning demands of the automobile industry. That means today, the wheel and tire are very sophisticated pieces of equipment that determines the performance of the vehicle on the road.

In a 2005 article by Mike Hanlon, he brief catalogues the development history of the tire as follows:

1844 – Charles Goodyear invents vulcanized rubber

1845 – Robert William Thomson patents vulcanized rubber pneumatic tire but was too costly and doesn’t catch on

1888 – John Dunlop invents pneumatic tires for bicycles.

1889 – A Belfast Cycle Race was won on pneumatic rubber tires beginning public awareness. Unfortunately the original tire was glued to the wheel, making it difficult to access the inner tube

1890 – CK Welsh patents the design of a wheel rim and outer cover with inextensible lip.

1895 – Andre Michelin uses pneumatic tire on an automobile (unsuccessfully).

1903 – Paul Weeks Litchfield patents tubeless tire. He rose to become the chairman of Goodyear in the year 1940.

1904 – mountable rims were introduced that allowed drivers to fix their own flats.

1908 – Frank Seiberling invented grooved tires with improved road traction.

1910 – B.F. Goodrich invents longer life tires by adding carbon to the rubber.

1911 – Philip Strauss invents the first successful automobile tire, which was a combination tire and air filled inner tube. Strauss’ company the Hardman Tire & Rubber Company marketed the tires.

1937 – B.F. Goodrich invents the first synthetic rubber tires and patents a substance called “Chemigum”

1948 – Michelin patents the radial tire

1954 – first original equipment tubeless tire fitted to the now defunct Packard.

Now for the future. The prestigious tire company, Michelin, that invented the radial tire 50 years ago that is now standard on every passenger vehicle, has developed a wheel/tire combination that will revolutionize how vehicles move. They call it the Tweel, a radical new wheel technology of the future.  It is a hub and spoke design that is fused with a flexible wheel that deforms to absorb shock and rebound with ease. The Tweel will replace the need for air pressure while delivering the same performance of a pneumatic tire. No need to add air, fix flats, no highway blowouts, or balancing. The flexible spoke design will out perform conventional tires in handling, ride comfort, cornering and just general road comfort.

And how will this affect the environment you ask. There will be less wear and thus less old tires that have to be dealt with, no more used tires discarded in empty lots or on the side of the road that are often a breeding ground of health concern diseases.

Although still under development for mass passenger car use, Michelin will enter the market with lower speed and lower weight vehicles and use the data for further development of the Tweel and conventional tires.  Something to look forward to in vehicle movement.

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