New design promises to eliminate road-based damage to tires and rims.
It’s not very often that a manufacturer can claim to have reinvented the wheel, but a new product, introduced to the world at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, may well qualify for this lofty claim.
A new technology, developed by Michelin and Maxion Wheels for the passenger car wheel market, incorporates two flexible rubber flanges mounted on a special wheel body to create a flexible wheel that not only improves the ride and comfort but, more importantly, absorbs impacts from potholes and curbs.
The new wheel is compatible with all tires on the market and comprises an alloy rim—which is narrower than normal, two rubber flanges and an optional cosmetic insert to protect the alloy wheel.
“Car wheels have been getting bigger and bigger, as they contribute to making cars look more premium, and large shiny alloys are an integral part of all modern car designs,” said Florent Menegaux, Michelin’s Chief Operating Officer.
“However, the resulting low profile tires with short sidewalls are much more susceptible to damage on today’s deteriorating roads with myriad potholes.”
Pieter Klinkers, Maxion Wheels CEO, said: “This is a game changer for wheels; a standard wheel driven through a pothole can damage the tire and potentially crack the alloy rim, putting the safety of driver and passengers at risk. When the Maxion Flexible Wheel hits a pothole, the MICHELIN ACORUS Technology flange flexes and protects the tire and the wheel.”
Promising test results
In tests with a 285/30R21 tire driven through a pothole, the standard rim version punctured the tire at 28km/hr whereas the Flexible Wheel with the MICHELIN ACORUS Technology did not puncture or sustain damage at any speed.
Besides reducing damage, the new technology is said to help improve comfort and noise levels, due to the flexible rubber flange that sits between the wheel and the tire. There is also an environmental benefit, claim the makers, in that the Flexible Wheel is designed to work with any brand of tire, including low rolling resistance tires—meaning lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy.
Finally, the new wheel solution also means fewer damaged tires and wheels are being thrown away following pothole damage.
The Maxion Flexible Wheel with MICHELIN ACORUS Technology will initially be sold in 19-inch and above sizes to the OE premium automakers.