Every so often, an earth-shattering idea rolls around (pun intended) and makes everyone rethink a seemingly-established concept. Has the wheel, long touted as one of man’s most pivotal inventions, finally been reinvented?
Tweels are airless radial tires designed as an all in one solution that takes the place of current tire and wheel assembly use. There is no complex mounting components, air pressure, nor fear of puncture. The poly-resin spokes cut down on the vibration and bounce associated with pneumatic tires.
That is exactly what we seek to find out as we take a look at Tweels and how they work. What are they used for and are they really a viable alternative to regular inflatable tires? Are they adaptable to various conditions?
Well, let’s find out.
What Are Tweels Good For?
“Tweel” is actually the shortened form of “Michelin X Tweel”. The Michelin man has produced a real doozy here and the world has caught on excitedly.
Tweels are simplified, airless versions of traditional pneumatic tires and separate wheel assemblies. Along with simplicity in design, their performance over rough terrain, in wet conditions, and on inclines make them more useful than many of their pressurized counterparts.
According to Michelin’s own website, the Tweel is “an airless radial tire” that is regarded to be the next step in the evolution of tires. One of the goals is to move past the complicated wheel mounting process.
However, the main goal is undoubtedly to move past the need to worry about air pressure. With Tweels, there is no need for inflation of tires or constant monitoring of air pressure. Most importantly, the Tweel cannot suffer punctures.
How Much Does A Tweels Cost?
There are many types of Tweels produced by Michelin and for several type of machinery. We will look more closely at each type later, but for now let’s look at what costs are associated with the different varieties of Tweels.
Tweels have a wide range of pricing depending on the type of application that starts at $200 and reaches well past $2000. The lower end mower caster Tweels settle at around $230 while the higher end $2100 versions are all terrain solutions for light construction and ATV use.
Here is a chart that can help those interested in budgeting a set of these innovative solutions.
Tweel Cost Chart
|Type Of Equipment||Machine Examples||Price Range (ea.)|
|Turf Care Front Caster Tweels||Zero-Turn And Walk Behind Mowers||$200 – $250|
|Turf Care Rear Tweels||Zero-Turn And Walk Behind Mowers||$350 – $750|
|Golf Utility||Golf Carts||$300 – $400|
|All Terrain Utility||ATVs and UTVs||$550 – $750|
|Light Construction Equipment||Skid Steer Loaders And Other Light Construction Machinery||$1200 – $2000|
What Are The Benefits Of Tweels?
Well, the idea is genius in its simplicity.
The Tweel comes with many benefits for machinery of all types including…
- immune to puncture
- no air pressure maintenance
- high capacity load bearing
- increased handling
- reduced bounce associated with pneumatic tires
Tweel Shear Beam
First, there is the outer layer of the wheel (which makes contact with the ground), also known as a shear beam and an inner hub that is bolted onto the wheel mounts. The shear beam is made of multiple plies of rubber while the hub is made of steel. Like on a regular tire, the shear beam also features treads.
Do Tweel Tires Ride Better?
The shear beam is connected to the hub via a series of poly-resin spokes. The spokes are evenly distributed around the wheel and can withstand great amounts of pressure without losing shape. They are, in essence, a real-time energy transfer system.
These spokes are the main differentiator between Tweels and pneumatic (inflatable) tires. As such, they carry out many of the functions that air performs in the latter. This includes shock absorption, ride comfort, handling, and carrying the weight of a vehicle, passengers, and loads.
One key advantage poly-resin spokes have over air is reduced bounce. The deformability of the spokes allows a Tweel to bend more easily over rugged and uneven terrain, which provides better ride comfort in such conditions. A pneumatic tire only has so much give since the air is trapped, which results in greater bounce.
Less bounce also means better handling because Tweels are more likely to remain in contact with the ground than pneumatic tires, which affords them better grip.
Another advantage with Tweels is their long lifespan. Unlike pneumatic tires, whose quality hinges largely on their likelihood to sustain a puncture, Tweels can endure 3 times the punishment. Even if a spoke or two snapped off somehow, the working of the wheel would be largely unaffected. The two tire types are operating on completely different standards of wear and tear.
The last advantage is the reduced likelihood of puncture-related downtime. No punctures equals no time lost repairing punctures. Anyone with time-sensitive tasks will greatly benefit from this.
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What Are Tweels Made For?
So, what applications are Tweels made for?
Michelin has dedicated Tweels specifically designed for four categories:
- Turf and lawn care equipment
- Skid steers and light construction equipment
- Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
- Golf and utility carts
The Tweel’s sizes, strength, and grip capabilities may vary from category to category, but the basic idea is the same.
What Are Tweels On A Lawn Mower?
Let’s start by taking a look at Tweels for lawn care equipment.
Chances are the first time you ever saw a Tweel was on a John Deere Z-turn. That’s because Michelin and John Deere have a special partnership which involves the former making bespoke Tweels for the latter.
Michelin’s Deere X Tweel Turfs range from 18-26 inches in diameter, with most models measuring 24 inches. Tweels are assigned to mowers depending on mower deck size, grip needs, and the mower’s power output.
Tweels are heralded by both Michelin and Deere as facilitating level mowing heights even at awkward angles.
The success of the partnership has allowed Michelin to open its doors to other lawn care equipment manufacturers, like Kubota, Hustler, and Cub Cadet. While the Tweels sold to these other companies are not bespoke like Deere’s, they are no less impressive.
You get a wide range of options and a similar size range (18-26 inches). The Tweels are also assigned according to the same standards as Deere Tweels.
Michelin also makes caster Tweels for the front of multiple z-turns. These feature sealed bearings and a lack of bounce that produces suspension-like effects during your ride. Customers can choose between grooved and smooth tread casters too.
Tweels For Light Construction
On the construction side, Michelin produces all-terrain Tweels (SSL 2 AT), hard surface action Tweels (SSL 2 HST), and 2-piece hub Tweels for skid steer loaders and various other construction equipment.
Regardless of whether your projects are on gravel, pavement, or mud, there is a construction Tweel for you. Michelin also helps mitigate compatibility issues by providing various hub adapters as optional extras.
Tweels For Utility Vehicles
Tweels for UTVs and ATVs are another fascinating application.
Given the rigorous demands placed on these machines, Michelin needed to ensure the Tweels are more than just eye-catching conversation starters.
Features like low contact patches enhance off-road grip, while the full-width spokes offer great handling and stability on steep terrain.
The company currently makes one ATV Tweel and 10 UTV Tweels.
Golf Cart Tweels
Lastly, we have cart Tweels (grandpa jokes galore).
While the demands on this category lean more towards comfort than brute strength or performance, these Tweels are not to be underestimated.
There is one Tweel for golf carts and one for utility carts, with both sharing the same characteristics. The main difference is that golf cart Tweels feature a design that prioritizes comfort, while utility Tweels are designed for maximizing load capacity.
Are Tweels Good For Hills?
Tweels are suited to life on uneven terrain.
In fact, they are even better suited to hills than pneumatic tires because the poly-resin spokes help maximize the shear beam’s ground contact area. This, combined with the Tweels’ reduced bounce helps maximize grip.
The range of Tweel options is also a big help for customers looking to tackle steep gradients. There is a wide variety of tread options you can choose from, particularly for lawn and turf equipment, with some wheels sporting treads specifically designed for maximizing grip on slippery slopes.
The Final Touches On Tweels And Their Uses…
Though these are becoming more popular for utility, construction, and maintenance equipment, this could be a breakthrough in automotive engineering in the future. Though the wheel was invented practically before recorded history began, it has taken on many forms over the menllinia.
The Tweel could very well be the next iteration everyone will be using in the near future. Trends and fads have a fickle nature and are hard to predict, but the innovation of the Tweel is undeniable.
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