Michelin testing airless tyres on a Chevy Bolt EV

Michelin has released a new airless tyre prototype, called the Uptis. We take a closer look at it.

It seems like every other month a tyre manufacturer trots out a new concept. The concepts look futuristic, make some amazing promises, and then disappear once the North American and Eurpoean show season is over.

Michelin just announced that they are testing the latest version of their airless tyre, the Uptis. 

The tyre is being developed in partnership with GM in North America, and the confidence inspiring part of this announcement is that there's a roadmap attached to it. They're aiming to have the new tyres ready for production as soon as 2024... which is only five years away, folks!

The marketing guff for this prototype has three different parts:

  • Airless tyres will eliminate the need for regular maintenance on your tyres, because they won't need pressure checks and inspection for damage, like punctures. 
  • The new tyre type will lead to less waste. They're referencing an internal Michelin study of 135,000 tyres that showed 20% of tyres were scrapped due to punctures or uneven wear because of improper tyre pressure.
  • They also state that less raw materials are reduced in the production of the tyres.

The current Uptis prototype is part of Michelin's VISION concept: Tyres that will be airless, connected, 3D printed and 100% sustainable. You can say that they've definitely ticked the airless part of that off, but the other three are perhaps still in the pipeline. We're not sure what a connected, airless tyre would have to say for itself, either.

The target for these tyres is the passenger car market, focusing on electric vehicles (EV). That makes sense, given the surge of interest in the EV market, and it's an easier market to cater for with this sort of tyre in comparison to 4x4 or high performance.

Check out the official video they've released:
The prototype certainly shows some excellent puncture resistance, with nails penetrating the tread face. This would alleviate a huge amount of potential stress for drivers. 

It will be really interesting to see where they go with the next sets of prototypes. The design of the tyre looks like it would lend itself well to recapping - replacing the tread face, while keeping the ribbed structure for a longer period of time. We would like to see the full lifecycle of the tyre addressed, too, given that the ribbed structure is composed of a composite rubber and high strength resin embedded fibreglass, which may not be as recyclable as traditional tyre constructions.

Is this the future of tyres? It certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

For more information, check out Michelin's official release page for the Uptis.