GM, Michelin Team Up for Airless Tires

We love seeing new technologies emerge in the automotive, marine, off-road, and industrial industries. Among some of the newest, most exciting developments is GM and Michelin’s new plans for an airless tire that will be resistant to punctures and flats. Will these provide better, more reliable performance on roads and racetracks? Continue reading to find out!

GM, Michelin Team Up for Airless TiresGeneral Motors and tiremaker Michelin no doubt hope a joint research agreement announced Tuesday bears riper fruit than Goodyear’s early-60s attempt to offer illuminated Neothane tires.

The two companies plan to develop and test an airless, puncture-resistant tire, aka the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (Uptis), with the intent to introduce the product on GM vehicles by 2024. Is the era of the steel-belted radial drawing to a close?

Michelin calls its prototype tire the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, or “Uptis” for short. Looking like baffles in an old silencer, the tire tread is supported by rubber composite fins that deform slightly when compressed, mimicking an air-filled tire. Fiberglass resin lends the material strength and durability, though testing will determine just how durable it is.

GM and Michelin made the announcement at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility, with the automaker claiming the tire design would reduce waste and save lives. By nature of its construction, the tire cannot be underinflated and can never suffer a blowout or flat.

Steve Kiefer, GM’s senior VP for global purchasing and supply chain, said in a statement, “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.”

Testing should begin on a fleet of Chevrolet Bolts later this year. The company made a point of mentioning its test locale — the cracked and potholed roads of Michigan — as proof of the tire’s rigorous shakedown. A video featured in the announcement shows a Bolt tooling sedately along a closed course, encountering a pothole along the way.

Michelin keeps its rights to the tire under this agreement, meaning it could offer them to any manufacturer or buyer.

Should the prototype tire prove viable for passenger vehicle use (airless Michelin Tweel tires are already available for non road vehicles), the addition would see trunk space expand, given the lack of need for a space-saver spare, jack, or inflator kit. A lot has to happen before the tire goes into service, however; this northern writer wonders how the open-sided design would prevent deep snow and slush from unbalancing a vehicle’s tires after a night in a cold parking lot.


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