Any driver who's ever been stuck in the snow, mud or sand understands the helpless feeling of watching a spinning tire fail to get a grip. Now, a graduate student at the London Royal College of Art has come up with a new wheel design he believes will help gain traction, especially on the roughs roads of his native Malawi.
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With just a turn of a screw, Ackeem Ngwenya's "Roadless" wheel system switches from a narrow tread to a wide tread. The idea is that different treads benefit different terrains. For example, thinner treads are better for rockier surfaces, medium treads are good for asphalt and wider treads are better for mud and sand. Normal wheels don't allow for such fluctuation, except for letting air out of the tires, which can lead to tire degradation.
Ngwenya's novel approach is made possible by an interlocking network of spoke-like rods connected to discs on the wheel's axle. Similar to how a scissor jack works, when the discs are moved closer together, the wheel is narrow and has a large diameter. When the discs are farther apart, the wheel is wider as has a much smaller diameter.
Ngwenya also built an alternate design where each bendable rod was connected to both discs, forming what looks like a bingo ball cage. Regardless, both designs would require a very elastic tire to comply with fluctuating wheel ratios.
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This video further explains Ngwenya's vision for Roadless and how the wheel could help rural villagers in Malawi. But to make that happen, Ngwenya needs to stay in school to further develop his idea. Unable to pay his outstanding tuition fees, he is currently seeking donations via an indiegogo crowdfunding page.