It’s a tire that can change itself. The shape of itself, that is.
Design firm LPK has envisioned a truck tire that can be transformed into a tank-like track for off-road use.
On the road it works conventionally, spinning with the wheel it’s mounted to, but that wheel has a spoke that can be extended to stretch the very elastic tire into a teardrop shape with a large contact patch for improved traction. When it’s in this state, the wheel stops turning and electric radial actuators mounted at the end of the spokes begin to drive the tire around them via a toothed track on the inside of the rubber.
It’s part of a larger design proposal for a configurable vehicle the outfit calls the ‘ToolBOX’ that took second place in the annual Michelin Challenge Design, which focused on pickup trucks this year.
The third place finisher also features adjustable tires, except that these get wider. The Amazon 'X Pick' delivery truck rendered by Vinod Pakalapati can also be jacked up for rough terrain and has an extendable bed with a retractable cover to accommodate different sized loads.
One of the runner-ups took a crack at reinventing the wheel by fitting his truck with sphere-shaped hubs powered by in-wheel electric motors. But the most interesting thing about Hawon Jang’s 'Mini Square' may be that the single-seat compact pickup is essentially a tiny semi, with an articulated bed to help maneuver through tight city streets.
The winning entry from Art Center College of Design student Josh Sandrock rides on conventional wheels, but his Volkswagen-branded 'Type 10' oversized truck does have a 10-foot bed that can accommodate different ‘pods’ designed for a variety different use cases, from adventuring to cargo hauling.
Unfortunately, none of the vehicles are destined for production, but all of them introduce some interesting ideas, which is exactly the point of the competition.