Michelin, in partnership with General Motors Co., is taking the development of a maintenance-free, airless tire to the next level with the "Uptis" prototype that the two companies said could be market ready for passenger cars by 2024.
Michelin and GM presented the next-generation airless tire/wheel concept during the Movin'On Summit for sustainable mobility, in Montreal 4 June.
Uptis — Unique Punctureproof Tire System— is based on the fundamentals of Michelin's Tweel, a combination of a tire and wheel product, first introduced at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, according to Eric Vinesse, Michelin executive vice president, research and development.
Like the Tweel, the Uptis uses resin-reinforced fiberglass spokes as load-bearing elements. The wheel hub is integrated and the rubber tread is moulded onto the circular platform that attaches to the end of the spokes.
"Uptis represents progress toward Michelin's vision for tomorrow's mobility," Vinesse said, "and also embodies our commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all."
Michelin and GM have entered into a joint research agreement under which the companies intend to further develop and validate the Uptis prototype with the goal of introducing Uptis on passenger models as early as 2024.
Michelin and GM have been testing the prototype on vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and disclosed that they intend to initiate real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan.
"General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology," Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, 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," Kiefer said.
From GM's perspective, Uptis represents a maintenance-free product that offers the prospect of essentially no tire and wheel-related breakdowns.
Kiefer said GM likely would introduce the product on a limited basis, targeting electric vehicles and fleets, which also could lead to development work on autonomous vehicles. Eventually, though, GM foresees airless tire/wheel composites as compatible with its full range of passenger vehicles, Kiefer said, declining to comment on the extent of GM's exclusivity with Michelin on this product.