What you’re looking at is the (finally) commercially available one-piece tyre and wheel, made by Michelin. Called the Tweel – combining ‘tyre’ and ‘wheel’ – it’s designed for small industrial vehicles and the increasingly mad Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) that take part in sports like rock crawling.
Fitted in place of a traditional two-piece wheel and pneumatic tyre, the Tweel can deform readily over tough terrain for a greater contact patch, and since there’s no air chamber it can’t be punctured. The examples in the video above are built for industry, but the concept is the same.
The UTV product you can now buy (below) is built in 4x137 and 4x156 bolt arrangements, with more on the way. It’s a 26-inch solid rubber construction that bends where needed and can be bumped up all the kerbs you like with no harm done. It also offers even greater cushioning than a regular tyre and lasts a lot longer because it’s less vulnerable. Your $750-per-corner investment is safe.
Though the clever little gripper is limited to 37mph, it’s perfect for a long service life of biffing around construction yards where nails, glass or scrap metal can all pose frequent and stabby problems for air-filled tyres.
Concept versions have been finding their way into YouTube videos for years, but, as we understand it, only recently has the company finalised the design and formally made it available to the public.
The Tweel isn’t likely to see duty on cars, because most cars’ wheel arches don’t have enough room for the Tweel’s deformation. Excess tyre bending isn’t really all that good for handling, either, and would confuse the hell out of modern active suspension systems…