General Motors and Michelin testing airless tires


General Motors and Michelin announced plans to finance a joint research to fast track the commercialization of Michelin’s Uptis prototype tires in passenger cars by 2024

1. Why airless tires need to be developed

Inflatable tires have dominated automobiles mobility since it was first used by Benz in 1888. This tire technology in contrast to the solid rubber tires used prior to that, has continually undergone modification and upgrade. In 1905, the threaded tires came into existence and gradually transitioned to the various tire types we currently see in circulation.

Advancements in inflatable tire technology have been very crucial in the success stories of recent high speed cars and heavy duty machines. However, inflatable tires are subject to a certain risk of puncturing or shape defect which has resulted in numerous cases of tire scrapping. In fact a recent study has shown that an estimated one billion tires are discarded each year and that about 200 million are scrapped globally from various causes.

12 percent of tire scrapping has been due to tire blowout, while 20 percent resulted from irregular wear and tire puncturing. These issues have given rise to a need for airless non pneumatic tires of which a number of tire manufacturers have invested resources to develop for years now.

On the 4th of June 2019 at third Movin’On summit, General Motors and Michelin announced plans to finance a joint research to fast track the commercialization of Michelin’s Uptis (Unique puncture proof tire system) prototype tires in passenger cars by 2024. The Uptis prototype tire was presented to the public by Michelin in 2017 at an event held during the first Michelin Movin’On Summit in Montreal, Canada.

2. Michelin and GM's plan for Uptis tires

The Uptis is an airless wheel technology that takes away issues related with inflatable tires. Michelin says that the Uptis will be manufactured using 3D printing technology and its production materials will be Bio-sourced and renewable. Speaking at the event, the CEO of Michelin Group Mr. Florent Menegaux highlighted the company’s hope with the Uptis. He said:

"Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream. Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today”

On his part, the senior vice President supply chain and global purchasing, Mr. Steve Kiefer expressed General Motors delight to be involved in the milestone project. He stated:

“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology. 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”

Uptis will surely eliminate issues like the very dangerous tire blowout and the very embarrassing and inconveniencing flat tires which both happen when we least expected resulting in unnecessary down time and extra cost. Michelin believes that this technology will make drivers feel safer and eliminate cases of road accident that resulted from tire blowouts. General Motors and Michelin expect to begin real life testing the Uptis prototypes with Chevrolet Bolt EV in Michigan before the end of the year.

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