Airless tires may finally be coming to passenger vehicles.
Tires are just about the most important and underappreciated thing about your car. Nobody cares about the poor, lowly tire until there’s a nail in the road and then… look out. Just a string of curse words.
That’s why the world is basically on fire about the latest announcement from GM and Michelin that they’re collaborating on tests of a new tire – but what a tire!
Currently in the prototype stage, the duo will begin testing the “Uptis” – which stands for Unique Puncture-proof Tire System – an airless tire concept that’s being targeted for passenger vehicles.
The unit will replace both the tire and wheel with a full assembly and the companies plan to test the unit on GM’s Bolt electric car.
Not only does Uptis offer obvious safety benefits – like saving you from the risk from a sudden blowout at high speeds – it also performs as a much more sustainable tire. According to Michelin, about 20 percent of tires are scrapped early due to blowouts or irregular wear, which is a sum total of about 200 million tires annually. A third benefit, according to Michelin, is that Uptis eliminates the need for a spare, which can offer “significant” weight savings for a vehicle.
Michelin currently offers an airless product called the Tweel, an airless tire-wheel combination that’s being used thus far in offroad applications like construction and ag, but the Uptis will be the first of its kind of passenger vehicles. Michelin already has a $50M plant dedicated to Tweel production, so that could help with ramp-up time since GM seems to be chomping at the bit to make this an offering on its cars.
No word on cost, or which models, just yet, but GM did say they plan to be offering Uptis tires on vehicles as soon as 2024.