Environmental comparison of Michelin Tweel and pneumatic tire using life cycle analysis
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Recently Michelin has been developing a new airless, integrated tire and wheel combination called the Tweel. The Tweel promises performance levels beyond those possible with conventional pneumatic technology because of its shear band design, added suspension, and decreased rolling resistance. However, many questions remain as to what kind of environmental impact this radical new design will have. The environmental impact of the Tweel will be compared to a current radial tire used on BMWs, but because of the complexity in manufacturing, using, and disposing these tires it is somewhat difficult to compare environmental problems. Currently there are environmental issues all throughout a tire's lifespan from rubber manufacturing emissions to tire disposal, and the rapidly growing method to evaluate all of these points is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). LCA is the essential tool required by businesses in order to understand the total environmental impact of their products - cradle-to-grave. By considering the entire life cycle of a Tweel from manufacturing, through use and disposal, and comparing it to knowledge of current tires, an accurate assessment of the entire environmental impact of the Tweel will be made. Since the Tweel is currently still in the research phase and is not currently manufactured and used however, there are uncertainties with respect to end-of-life scenarios and rolling resistance estimates that will affect the LCA. Thus, it will be important to consider a range of options to determine which one will have the most environmental benefits while still keeping the strengths of the Tweel design intact.