Man may have finally reinvented the wheel. This is, of course, if we consider the new Uptis Michelin tire a reinvention. It is a concept that has been around for a very long time within the industry. Forklifts and other industrial machinery have used airless tires to make work easier for years.
This is the first time it’s getting shown in public for passenger cars. The Uptis is a new airless tire that’s made using rubber “c” shapes under the tread. The rubber replaces the part where air would normally occupy to help maintain tire pressure. This means that consumers will have no flats, experience no pressure leaks, and enjoy more durability.
According to Michelin, about 200 million tires get tossed into the scrapyard every year due to premature blowouts or punctures. The Uptis helps to minimize this. Also, having no air inside the tire means that you will never have to monitor your tire pressure. It remains at an optimal pressure fuel efficiency.
The Uptis can even be tuned to an individual application by changing the stiffness of the internal structure. This means that you can make adjustments accordingly to meet the desired performance characteristics. The tire can be made more or less stiff for acceleration, cornering, bump handling, and acceleration.
The bump handling tuning can help eliminate the need for separate suspension components in some vehicle types. Another benefit is that the internal rubber structure can have holes drilled into it to eliminate water accumulation and improve wet handling.
The Uptis also takes less energy and raw materials to manufacture. This makes it better for the environment. It is also estimated to last up to three times longer when compared to ordinary tires. It’s important to note that it requires a new type of rim. Michelin claims that the rim boasts a significantly longer lifespan. The fitment, however, will feel no different to the driver.
This achievement hasn’t been easy. Michelin has been working on an airless tire for 16 years. A downside to the Uptis is that it is 7% heavier, which could be a cause for concern in EVs. Heavier tires mean less driving range. The company worked with General Motors on the project and expects to start rolling the Uptis out as an option in 2024. Michelin is currently working to get regulatory approvals to use the new Michelin tires on the streets.
The Uptis has already been displayed publicly where a few lucky members of the public were able to ride a Mini Electric equipped with the tires. Most of the participants felt no difference compared to ordinary tires. But that’s the whole point – to provide new and improved technology while maintaining the user experience.