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Best Inventions 2005: Roll With It

2 minute read

Airing It Out
Inventor: Michelin
Availability: Now for the IBOT; about 2020 for cars
To Learn More: michelinman.com
A wheel without an inflated tire may seem old-fashioned — think wooden buggy wheels — but the Tweel from Michelin is anything but retro. A shock-absorbing rubber tread band distributes pressure to dozens of flexible polyurethane spokes. The spokes in turn are supported by an aluminum center. Because the Tweel is airless, it is more rugged than a pneumatic tire and never goes flat. The Tweel has been tested on the IBOT robotic wheelchair and military vehicles. But you won’t see it on your Honda anytime soon. Michelin says it is still too noisy for automotive applications.
Next Product: Clean machine >>

Clean Machine
Inventor: Intelligent Energy
Availability: In early 2007, for less than $10,000
To Learn More: envbike.com
The ENV bike looks like a muscular motorcycle but runs more like a moped. Weighing in at 200 lbs., the aluminum bike travels at speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. on its hydrogen-powered fuel-cell engine. Project director Andy Eggleston says that proprietary technology allows the fuel cell to produce more energy than is typical. The ENV runs silently on a 5-oz. canister of hydrogen that costs about $4 and can power the bike for 100 miles. The drawback? California is the only state with hydrogen fueling stations, so filling up outside the Golden State could be tough.
Next Product: Handles Like a Dream >>


Handles Like a Dream
Inventor: Yoshiaki Kato of Toyota
Availability: Prototype only
To Learn More: www.toyota.co.jp/en/news/04/1203_1e.html
The i-unit is a four-wheel personal-transportation system that looks like a space-age sports car. “This is designed to be an extension of the human body,” says Yoshiaki Kato, chief engineer of the fully electronic, drive-by-wire concept vehicle, which is powered by lithium-ion batteries and has an exterior made of biodegradable, plant-based materials. The 3-ft.-wide, leaf-shaped i-unit is nearly 6 ft. tall when positioned upright but drops its center of gravity and reclines into a sports-car position for traveling at speeds of up to 25 m.p.h. Sensors allow the vehicle to detect obstacles. Place the steering unit to the left or right — or even at the feet of those with special needs.
Next Product: Live Wires >>

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