An innovation that leverages new technologies to attack existing markets from the bottom up, is known as a disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovations are effective for two reasons:
- They invade the market at the bottom, acquiring the segment of the market least coveted by the major players.
- They take advantage of the fact, incumbent firms prioritize doing what is working over innovation.
How does all of this relate to wheels you ask? Well, Michelin has developed and announced an airless radial tire named the “Tweel” which will disrupt the tire and wheel industries.
What is a Tweel?
As the name suggests, a Tweel combines the tire and wheel into one structure and, instead of air, uses high-strength poly-resin spokes to support loads. The most important advantage of this airless tire design concept, developed by Michelin, is that it doesn’t burst, leak pressure, or go flat. If the technology continues to advance and provide solutions in other applications, the Tweel will disrupt tire and wheel manufacturers across multiple industries. Michelin’s new Tweel technology eliminates the need for wheels, and currently is the only non-pneumatic solution to downtime caused by flats.
Where can I find the Tweel?
Michelin is currently targeting two applications for the Tweel technology: skid steer loaders in construction applications and commercial lawn mowers. A major issue in these applications is downtime due to flat tires. Tire competitors like McLaren and Summit Supply offer pneumatic tires more resistant to flats at a higher cost, while the Tweel eliminates this issue all together.
Why wheels will be nonexistent.
Incumbent tire manufactures will find it difficult and expensive to develop comparable technology and catch up to Michelin’s lead and learnings. Incumbent wheel manufacturers will slowly become obsolete as “Tweel like” wheel end solution becomes common place, unless they can develop ways to continue to be a complement to vehicles.
As the Tweel technology advances, we see it becoming the standard wheel end solution in all vehicle applications.
Do you have your own thoughts regarding the future of wheels? Contact us, we would love to hear your thoughts.