70 years of radial tyres

Thursday 21st July 2016 | 0 Comments
Superior mileage, durability and safety – Michelin isn’t exaggerating when it calls the radial a “revolution”
Superior mileage, durability and safety – Michelin isn’t exaggerating when it calls the radial a “revolution”

Tyres & Accessories has just turned 70, and this is a milestone we share with something very important to us – the radial tyre. Invented by Michelin in 1946, the radial arguably represents the most important revolution in black, rubbery ring development since the introduction of the pneumatic tyre more than half a century earlier.

Many changes in tyre design occurred between the appearance of the first inflatable tyres in the late 19th century and the end of the Second World War – removable tyres were introduced in 1891 (a Michelin patent) and carbon black, used from 1915, changed the standard colour of tyres and made them more resistant. The inner tube became optional in 1930 with the first tubeless tyre and the metal frame first appeared in 1937. But none of these developments altered the fundamental diagonal structure used in tyres. These cross-ply or bias tyres all featured a frame made of steel or nylon threads that intersected at an angle of 30 to 40°.

The first radials came to market under the ‘Michelin X’ name in 1949

In 1946, engineers at Michelin came up with an entirely new idea. They added an extra thread to the existing diagonal structure to make a 90° angle with the tyre’s median axis – the radial tyre was created. Michelin notes that no disadvantages accompanied the benefits the radial delivered: The tread contact path was more rigid, providing better grip and greater resistance, while the sidewall remained flexible but gained additional load-bearing capacity, a combination that improved driving comfort. Deformations were reduced, limiting energy loss and therefore fuel consumption. The radial was safer, more pleasant to drive on, more durable and economical.

Over the years, Michelin’s engineers have continued to improve the radial design and investigated its application on other vehicle types. Seven decades after its birth, radial technology is now used on all wheels, from tractors to motorcycles, HGV trucks to aeroplanes, and radials have even left their tracks on the Moon.

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