A new wheel design, armed with mechanical suspension, could make for more comfortable rides and greater energy efficiency.
Designed by Israeli farmer Gilad Wolf, the SoftWheel was a product of necessity. After breaking his pelvis in 2008, Wolf insisted he would continue his agrarian duties and struck out across his fields in a traditional wheelchair. Over the course of several months the bumps and bone rattling shakes that accompanied Wolf’s journeys across the soil motivated him to design a new wheel concept that eliminates most of the shock associated with traditionally spoked wheels.
Key to the SoftWheel’s abilities is its replacement of spokes with three compression cylinders. Reaching from the interior of the wheel’s rim to its hub, the SoftWheel adds suspension directly to a wheelchair or bike making the rider feel as though they’re floating rather than being jostled.
Designed to work only when a threshold of shock is applied to the wheels hub, the Softwheel is also a much more efficient ride than traditional wheels. In traditional spoked wheels as much as 30 percent of the energy exerted for motion is lost due to the lack of suspension. What’s more, riders can grow fatigued easily and tend to find their experience quite uncomfortable. With the SoftWheel those mechanical and ergonomic liabilities are eliminated.
While the SoftWheel isn’t ready for market just yet, Wolf and his design team say their invention will be available sometime in late 2014. With a pair of wheels running you $2000 the SoftWheel’s entry price is fairly steep; however, comfort can be priceless. What’s more, the SoftWheel would undoubtedly fit applications outside the realm of human powered transport. Imagine driving your car across a road pockmarked with potholes and feeling nothing more than the faintest rattle. Even better, SoftWheel equipped vehicles could bring automobiles and supplies to remote, unpaved regions that rarely see outside support. To top it all off, the unique wheel design would likely be more efficient than its traditional counterparts – meaning drivers could expect improved fuel efficiency.
While most people don’t set out to literally reinvent the wheel, Wolf’s attempt may serve us all quite well in the end.
Image and Videos Courtesy of SoftWheel