Michelin and General Motors presented a new generation of airless wheel technology for passenger vehicles — the Michelin Uptis (or Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) prototype — at the Movin'On Summit for sustainable mobility in Montreal.
The companies also announced a joint research agreement under which they intend to introduce Uptis on passenger car models as early as 2024.
Michelin and GM are testing the Uptis prototype, beginning with vehicles such as 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.
Because Uptis is airless, the breakthrough wheel assembly eliminates the dangerous risk of flat tires and blowouts.
“Over 120 years we developed tires that are really good, but they still have the same problem — punctures and being flat, or being damaged. And for 120 years we have asked the consumer to take care of his tire, because we ask them to take the pressure. With Michelin Uptis technology, you will never have to do that. You will always have the right tire pressure because there is no pressure inside,” explained Cyrille Roget, scientific and innovation communication director for Michelin Group, after the press conference.
The Uptis concept will mean that drivers of passenger vehicles will feel safer on the road, operators of passenger vehicle fleets may minimize downtime resulting from no flat tires and near-zero levels of maintenance, and society at large will benefit from environmental savings through the reduced use of raw materials for replacement tire or spare tire production, according to Michelin
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).
“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.”
“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.”
The Uptis prototype is engineered for today’s passenger vehicles, and it is also well suited to emerging forms of mobility, acccording to Michelin. .
“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, who revealed Uptis at the Movin’On Summit. “Uptis represents progress toward Michelin’s vision for tomorrow’s mobility, and also embodies our commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all.”
Uptis features groundbreaking improvements in architecture and composite materials, which Michelin said enables Uptis to bear the car’s weight at road-going speeds.
“Even if you have a slight break in one spoke, it can still work perfectly,” noted Roget.
These innovations combine to eliminate compressed air to support the vehicle’s load, and will result in environmental savings of approximately 200 million tires worldwide that are scrapped prematurely every year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear.