Michelin Testing Airless Tires on Pothole-Ridden Michigan Roads With Help of GM
Airless tires are the holy grail for tire and auto manufacturers due to improved safety and reduced environmental waste.
On a recent trip home from Detroit, I was the unfortunate victim of a pothole that tore one of my tires to shreds. It's such a common occurrence in the area that there are safety patrols out and about putting on spare tires on stranded motorists' vehicles for free. Since fixing the roads is apparently not an option, Michelin is working with General Motors to develop a new type of tire that is airless and sustainable.
Announced at the company's annual Movin'On Summit in Montreal, the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, or Uptis, is an airless tire designed to improve safety. The prototype is connected, 3D-printed, and 100 percent sustainable. Every year, 200 million tires worldwide are scrapped prematurely as a result of a puncture; future tires like Uptis could help to eliminate that worry.
“Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream,” said Florent Menegaux, chief executive officer for Michelin Group.
Michelin is testing out the new tire on a fleet of Bolt EV electric cars. Additionally, and importantly to this author, the testing will occur in Michigan, where roads aren't great. Michigan also experiences all of the seasons and other junk Mother Nature throws at us, providing a good testing environment for a tire manufacturer.
Airless tires have far-reaching benefits: Drivers will feel safer on the road, and there's no need to periodically check tire pressure or worry about a puncture, and not to mention the elimination of flat tires also reduces fleet operating costs and downtime.
“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology,” said Steve Kiefer, senior vice president of global purchasing and supply chain at General Motors. “Uptis is an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future and a great example of how our customers benefit when we collaborate and innovate with our supplier partners.”
Even though the tire is today being tested on a passenger vehicle, Michelin envisions a world where Uptis will be featured on future mobility products. Fully autonomous vehicles need as little downtime as possible to work efficiently, and an airless tire helps achieve that goal while reducing the danger to the passenger.
Michelin's goal is to have this tire on passenger vehicles by 2024.