It’s like Michelin took inspiration from Citroën with the chevron structure of their new airless tire. Michelin says their new design called ‘Uptis’ (unique puncture-proof tyre system) is a production-ready version of the Tweel system that can sufficiently replicate the characteristics of a normal, air-filled tyre. It is made from composite rubber and resin-embedded fibreglass, and can “bear a car’s weight at road-going speeds” thanks to material and structure improvements.

Michelin’s has been committed to the development of airless tires for some time. The company first showed an airless tire in 2005 when it unveiled its Tweel system that is currently being used on construction and farm equipment. In 2014, Michelin introduced its new $50 million US plant for airless tire production. (See this article we featured in Citroënvie back on Nov. 20, 2014, and this article back on May 2, 2018).

Michelin is teaming up with General Motors to offer them on production vehicles starting in 2024.

The benefits of a tire without air in it are many and varied. GM and Michelin say the risk of punctures and blow-outs will be totally eliminated, as will excessive, life-shortening wear caused by under – or over-inflation, making roads safer as result of fewer blowouts and flat tires. As a result, tires will be replaced much less often, so fewer can be produced – with a savings in raw materials, energy and emissions required to produce them.

Michelin claims some 200 million tyres are prematurely scrapped every year because of damage.

Airless tyres will also be good for autonomous cars, which Michelin and GM claim; “will demand near-zero maintenance from the tire to maximize their operating capabilities.”

Later this year Uptis will start real-world tests on a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

We wonder how snow, ice and dirt and not going to collect inside them? Perhaps for production they will be covered with a breathable side membrane. After all, Michelin needs someplace to put its name on the product.

What is yet to be revealed is the cost of the tire system, and which type of vehicles will be fitted with them. So far there has only been talk of fleets and shared or rented vehicles using the Uptis tires.

The companies have stated that their aim is for a complete reshuffle of conventional wheels and tires, so that they are fully replaced as an assembly unit for passenger cars. If so, tire shops could be going the way of gas stations as Uptis equipped autonomous EVs become the common means of transportation.