GM, Michelin want to take the air out of tires

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The Uptis (nee Tweel) system employs a deformable wheel with flexible and resilient spokes and a thin airless rubber band | GM photos by Steve Fecht

It was back in 2005 that French tire maker Michelin revealed the Tweel, an airless tire that it developed for industrial and military uses but which it hoped might be further developed for use on passenger cars, pickup trucks and other civilian vehicles.

This week, Michelin and General Motors announced at the Movin’On Summit in Montreal an agreement to initiate “real-world testing and validation” of what they’re calling the Uptis Prototype. That’s Uptis as in Unique Puncture-proof Tire System.  

The airless wheel/tire prototypes were tested on a Chevrolet Bolt EV at the GM Proving Grounds in Michigan

“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,” GM’s senior vice president for global purchasing and supply chain, was quoted in the news release.

“GM intends to develop this airless wheel assembly with Michelin and aims to introduce it on passenger vehicles as early as 2024,” the company said in the news release.

The testing will be conducted using a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

Michelin’s Uptis prototype

The airless tire/wheel would eliminate flats and blowouts, thus offering “significant potential for reducing the use of raw materials and waste,” GM said.

Savings would come from reduction in tires being scrapped or recycled, reducing the need for replacement tires, and reducing irregular wear caused by over- or under-inflation.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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