Michelin and General Motors unveiled a new generation of airless wheel technology for passenger vehicles — the Michelin Uptis Prototype (or “Unique Puncture-proof Tire System”) — at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility June 4 in Montreal, Canada.
“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.”
Michelin North America, headquartered in Greenville, and GM also announced a joint research agreement under which the companies intend to validate the Uptis Prototype with the goal of introducing Uptis on passenger models as early as 2024.
Michelin and GM are testing the Uptis Prototype, beginning with vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Later this year, the companies will initiate real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan, after which the prototype will move to the next step of development, said Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, General Motors.
Because Uptis is airless, the breakthrough wheel assembly eliminates the risk of flat tires and blowouts:
- Drivers of passenger vehicles feel safer on the road.
- Operators of passenger vehicle fleets minimize downtime and improve efficiency resulting from flat tires and near-zero levels of maintenance.
- Society at large benefits from environmental savings through reduced use of raw materials for replacement tire or spare tire production.
Drivers will no longer risk finding themselves stranded by a flat tire on the side of the road, said Eric Vinesse, executive vice president, research and development, Group Michelin, who revealed Uptis at the Movin’On Summit.
Its structure is unique, Vinesse said.
The new high-tech materials that are the result of more than 10 years of research include rubber, aluminum, and a new generation of reinforcing material he described as resin embedded fiberglass material that is extremely light and resistant.
“It’s proof that the concept is not just a dream,” he said.
The Uptis Prototype represents a major advancement toward achieving Michelin’s VISION concept, which was presented at the Movin’On Summit in 2017 as an illustration of Michelin’s strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility. The VISION concept introduced four main pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3D-printed, and 100% sustainable (entirely renewable or bio-sourced materials).
“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,” Vinesse said.“Uptis represents progress toward Michelin’s vision for tomorrow’s mobility, and also embodies our commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all.”
The Uptis Prototype will demand near-zero maintenance to continue operating.
Using an airless tire has the potential to result in environmental savings: 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. That’s approximately 200 million tons of additional raw materials, weighing as much as 200 Eiffel Towers, eliminated, Vinesse said.
The partnership with GM, which recently named Michelin as one of their top providers out of 20,000, is in line with the company’s zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion vision, Kiefer said.
He said the Uptis could have a significant impact on reducing crashes, emissions, congestion, calling it a great example of a partnership with new technology that will change the industry.
“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology,” Kiefer said. “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.”