Michelin, together with General Motors, is developing a new airless wheel technology called UPTIS, which promises to help drivers wave goodbye to tyre punctures forever
Tyre punctures are a pain and a massive inconvenience for drivers everywhere, but if Michelin has their way, they will soon be a thing of the past.
The French tyre company, in collaboration with General Motors (GM), has come up with a new airless wheel prototype which it says will eliminate once and for all the possibility of getting a flat tyre or blowout.
The technology is dubbed UPTIS, or Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, and is essentially a rubber wheel with ‘spokes’ all around the sidewall, instead of air within a tube. It offers the same functionality as a standard rubber tyre, without the risk of incurring a puncture or blowout.
Other key benefits of UPTIS include increased productivity, as downtime incurred from punctures and tyre maintenance is drastically reduced, a huge benefit for business users. UPTIS also presents a solution for future fleets of shared autonomous vehicles, as it removes the problem of having to deal with unexpected tyre repairs or maintenance issues for these users.
Michelin also touts UPTIS as a sustainable solution, as demand for replacement tyres goes down thanks to the greater reliability of the airless wheel. According to the company, some 200 million tyres are scrapped each year, the equivalent of the weight of 200 Eiffel Towers. Some 20 percent of these tyres are scrapped before they reach their full use cycle, due to punctures, or uneven wear as a result of irregular tyre pressure. By eliminating these issues, UPTIS can significantly reduce waste and raw material usage in the production of new replacement tyres for such cases.
Furthermore, Michelin claims that UPTIS can be produced sustainably by being 3D-printed, or through the use of renewable or bio-sourced materials. UPTIS is closely related to the Tweel, a similar product that Michelin introduced in 2004 for limited use in low speed applications (like golf carts or lawn mowers). Unlike Tweel however, UPTIS is engineered for high speed use in production vehicles.
Michelin and GM will be testing UPTIS on a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles in North America over the coming months, and the companies hope to be able to put the technology on sale by 2024.