Michelin Helps Move an Airless OE Car Tire Closer to Reality

June 4, 2019

When will an airless tire appear as original equipment on an automobile? If Groupe Michelin and General Motors Corp. have their way, it could be within the next five years.

At its 2019 Movin’On Summit in Montreal, Michelin and GM announced a joint research agreement under which the companies intend "to validate" the Michelin UPTIS Prototype tire, with the goal of introducing UPTIS on passenger models as early as 2024.

Later this year, the companies will initiate real-world testing of UPTIS (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) on a test fleet of Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan. Because UPTIS is airless, the the wheel assembly eliminates the dangerous risk of flat tires and blowouts. In turn, society at large benefits from "extraordinary environmental savings" through reduced use of raw materials for replacement tire or spare tire production.

2017 Movin'On Summit

The Michelin prototype was introduced at the 2017 summit, also held in Montreal.

The company says the tire and its technology represent major advancements toward achieving its Vision concept, and illustrate Michelin’s strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility. There are four main pillars of innovation associated with the Vision concept: airless, connected, 3D-printed and 100% 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, Groupe Michelin CEO. “Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today.”

“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,” adds Steve Kiefer, GM's senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain.

The UPTIS Prototype is re-engineered for today’s passenger vehicles, and it is also well suited to emerging forms of mobility, says Michelin. "The vehicles and fleets of tomorrow -- whether autonomous, all-electric, shared service or other applications -- will demand near-zero maintenance from the tire to maximize their operating capabilities."

The prototype features "ground-breaking improvements in architecture and composite materials, which enable UPTIS to bear the car’s weight at road-going speeds." These innovations combine to eliminate compressed air to support the vehicle’s load, and result in extroardinary environmental savings.

Michelin estimates approximately 200 million tires worldwide are scrapped prematurely every year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear.

For more information, check out this first-hand report from Roselynne Reyes, associate editor of our sister publication, Automotive Fleet: "Michelin, GM Show Airless Tire Prototype."