France’s Michelin and Detroit’s GM have introduced airless tires for passenger vehicles – the Michelin Uptis Prototype (unique puncture-proof tire system) – at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility June 4-6 in Canada.
The companies also announced a joint research agreement under which they intend to validate the prototype and introduce it on passenger models as early as 2024. Testing will begin this year on vehicles including the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and real-world testing on a fleet of the vehicles will take place in Michigan.
“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology,” says Steve Kiefer, senior vice president of global purchasing and supply chain for GM. “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.”
Because Uptis is airless, the wheel eliminates the risk of flat tires and blowouts. It also has to be replaced less, which is better for the environment.
The prototype is an advancement toward Michelin’s Vision concept, which was presented at the Movin’On Summit in 2017 as an illustration of the company’s strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility. The concept introduced four main pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3-D-printed, and 100 percent sustainable (entirely renewable or biosourced materials).
“Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream,” says Florent Menegaux, CEO of Michelin Group. “Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today.”
The prototype is engineered for today’s passenger vehicles and is suitable for emerging forms of mobility. The vehicles and fleets of tomorrow are expected to demand minimal tire maintenance to maximize their operating capabilities.
Uptis also offers improvements in architecture and composite materials, enabling it to bear the car’s weight at road-going speeds. The innovations combine to eliminate compressed air to support the vehicle’s load. About 200 million tires worldwide are thrown out prematurely each year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards, or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear.
Michelin has a presence in 170 countries, more than 125,000 employees, and produced about 190 million tires in 2018 at 67 tire production facilities.