In my October blog post on the Michelin Tweel I have still been musing as to when Michelin might be commercializing the Tweel, a technology they announced with a lot of fanfare some seven years ago.
Well, Michelin has undoubtedly created clarity now: on October 30, the French tire maker announced the start of commercial sales of a Tweel version aimed at skid steer loaders. With the slogan “no maintenance, no compromise, no downtime” Michelin is offering its non-pneumatic tire for skid steer loaders in the landscaping, construction, contracting and agricultural industries.
In these heavy duty environments pneumatic tires unsurprisingly suffer from several flats per month leading to significant equipment downtime. A common work-around is to mount the vehicles with solid tires or to fill the tire cavity with foam. None of these solutions are ideal since they negatively impact ride and handling as well as traction. The no maintenance Tweel on the other hand will never go flat, will not require air-ups and is generally immune to damage. Michelin claims increased operator comfort, reduced operator fatigue, increased uptime, better traction and longer wear life as additional benefits of the Tweel.
Michelin is launching the Tweel in one size, the 12N16.5 X-Tweel SSL, a size which should fit most skid steer loaders. For the full specifications, see here: X-Tweel-SSL_DataSheet
A closer look at the Tweel reveals the following:
- Hub: the X-Tweel SSL is fitted with a steal hub no longer a aluminum one or even a fully flexible core.
- Steel belts: Michelin added several layers of steel belts to protect the tire from impacts and penetrations. This may be somewhat surprising given that the tire cannot suffer from punctures but probably helps greatly with tire durability in harsh operating environments.
It also seems that Michelin is doing a controlled roll-out of the Tweel technology which is currently only available in the USA and Canada and only at a handful of dealers.
I’ll be very interested to see how the Tweel fares in the market and I’ll post any news as soon as I get them. One thing seems to be sure though: Michelin is patiently executing its strategy exactly they way they had it laid out seven years ago when the Tweel was first announced. Already in 2005 they had identified the skid steer loader market as a potential niche for the Tweel. The fact that Michelin executes its strategy some seven years later shows the tremendous commitment the tire manufacturer has to make airless tires a reality.