Frankfurt, Germany — Group Michelin and Maxion Wheels have developed a car wheel, which incorporates flexible rubber flanges that they claim can absorb impacts from potholes and curbs and improve ride and comfort.
The wheel, dubbed Michelin Acorus, is compatible with all tires on the market and comprises an alloy rim that is narrower than normal, two rubber flanges and an optional cosmetic insert to protect the alloy wheel, Maxion said at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where the partners debuted the product/technology.
In tests with a 285/30R21 tire driven through a pothole, the standard rim version punctured the tire at 17 mph, whereas an Acorus flexible wheel did not puncture or sustain damage at any speed, the development partners said.
The name Acorus is taken from Acorus Calamus, a wetland plant that looks like a reed. It is featured in a French fable "the oak and the reed" with the wisdom that "a reed bends but does not break."
Michelin Chief Operating Officer Florent Menegaux pointed out that the new design is particularly useful today as the vehicle industry specs larger and larger wheels on their cars.
"…large shiny alloys are an integral part of all modern car designs," Mr. Menegaux said, "However, the resulting low profile tires with short sidewalls are much more susceptible to damage on today's deteriorating roads with myriad potholes."
Cutaway of the Michelin-Maxion Flexible Wheel shows the flexibility, durability and robustness of the new innovative wheel. The Acorus rubber flanges are in yellow. From left to right: normal state; loaded state; and deflected state.
Maxion Wheels CEO Pieter Klinkers called the development a "game changer for wheels," offering safety, economy and comfort.
Maxion and Michelin also claim the new design reduces noise levels and improves comfort in low-profile fitments.
Michelin is working in partnership with Maxion Wheels, a leader in the wheel business, to bring the flexible wheel to market. It initially will be available in 19-inch and larger rim diameter sizes to premium auto makers, the partners said.
Michelin said the "Incubator Program" within its research group helped shorten the design's development time.
Maxion Wheels is a division of Iochpe-Maxion SA, a leading wheel manufacturer for passenger cars, light trucks, buses, commercial trucks and trailers.