Michelin & General Motors to Test ‘Airless' Tires on a Fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs
Michelin and automaker General Motors announced a new generation of airless tire technology for passenger vehicles called the Michelin Uptis Prototype, which is an acronym for "Unique Puncture-proof Tire System" at the Movin'On Summit for sustainable mobility this week in Montreal.
Michelin and GM also announced a joint research agreement under which the companies intend to validate the Uptis Prototype under real-world driving conditions, with the goal of introducing the Uptis tires on passenger models by 2024.
Later this year, the two companies will begin testing the airless Uptis on a fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs in Michigan.
According to Michelin, the Uptis tire features improvements in architecture and composite materials, which enable the airless tire to bear the car's weight at road-going speeds. Michelin designed an inner structure made of composite rubber and proprietar high-strength resin embedded fiberglass to support the vehicle's weight.
"The Uptis Prototype demonstrates Michelin's capacity for innovation — in both the mastery of these high-tech materials, and also the development approach in close collaboration with GM, which validates our Vision concept as a roadmap for innovation," said Eric Vinesse, executive vice president, research and development, Group Michelin.
The airless tires might also be a more reliable solution for autonomous vehicles of those used in shared mobility services. Because the Uptis is airless, it eliminates the dangerous risk of flat tires and blowouts, which can be more problematic for a driverless vehicle carrying passengers.
"General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology," said Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, General Motors. "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."
With airless tires, drivers as well as passenger vehicles might feel more safer on the road. For fleet operators, airless tires can cut maintenance costs. In addition, operators of passenger vehicle fleets can minimize downtime as a result of flat tires.
The Uptis Prototype represents a major advancement toward achieving Michelin's VISION concept which was first unveiled in 2017 and is part of Michelin's strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility.
"Uptis demonstrates that Michelin's vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream," said Florent Menegaux, chief executive officer for Michelin Group. "Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today."
For the auto industry, using airless tires can have a significant environmental impact. Every year, approximately 200 million tires worldwide are scrapped before the end of their service life as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards and incorrect air pressure that causes uneven wear.
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