GM and Michelin to Test Airless Tires In Michigan this Year

Michelin and GM announced today at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable tech, that they plan to test a Bolt at the Milford proving grounds with a so-called Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (Uptis).

“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology,” said Steve Kiefer, GM’s senior VP for Global Purchasing. “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.”

The tire’s face pretty much looks like any other tire. From the side, though, the Uptis is very different. The rubber sidewall we’re accustomed to is gone, replaced instead by a series of spokes made of composite rubber and resin embedded fiberglass (there appear to be a row of spokes on either side of the tire).

Although you might wonder how introducing this much more material to tire production could be “greener,” GM and Michelin argue that fewer punctures mean fewer tires thrown away—though that will depend on the durability of the tire’s spokes and how quickly the material fatigues.

The companies also argue that, since the tires won’t be inflated to incorrect pressures, they’ll wear out slower and that there also won’t be the same demand for spare tires, further reducing the amount of wasted material.

The companies also argue that by eliminating the risk of punctures, it is making its cars safer. And there’s merit to that claim. Roughly 9% of all US accidents in 2012 were “tire-related” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That said, not all were due to blowouts. Tread separations and bald tires, which these tires may not address, were also named as contributors, but so was underinflation, which the Uptis tires do address.

Michelin claims that the tires cause no loss of comfort for passengers and maintains that the wheel and tire combo weigh less than run-flats and only about 3 lbs more than a standard tire.

Michelin and GM say they expect the tires to be available to the public in 2024.

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