Michelin and General Motors set out to market the Uptis puncture-free tire.
Eric Vinesse, Executive Vice President, Research & Development, at Michelin, and Steve Kiefer, Senior Vice-President, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, at General Motors, announced plans to bring the Upt is puncture-free tire to market by 2024. The announcement was made at the Movin’On Summit in Montreal in early June.
Constructed using 3D printer technology, the puncture-proof passenger vehicle tire—made of rubber, aluminum, and fibreglass—promises the same performance of a conventional tire while eliminating the anxiety associated with punctures and breakdowns.
“It’s estimated that about 20% of drivers are operating their vehicles with insufficient tire pressure,” Vinesse said. “With this airless tire, you don’t have to check the pressure or stop to install the spare in the event of a puncture. Not only is the tread surface of the Uptis replaceable, but it will also be possible to continue to drive even if the tire is damaged.”
Vinesse is convinced that this breakthrough technology will have a significant environmental impact as, every year, 200 million tires worldwide end up in landfills prematurely due to wear or punctures. He estimates that the Uptis will save 2 million tons of waste annually.
Designed for autonomous vehicles
Like all manufacturers, GM is committed to reducing traffic accidents, emissions and traffic congestion. Autonomous vehicles, which are currently being tested around the globe, will allow occupants to focus on more important matters while their vehicles handle the driving.
As it stands now, the Uptis is ready and waiting for the next phase of autonomous mobility, Kiefer explained. Autonomous vehicle fleet operators will receive real-time notifications if a problem occurs with a tire, or in some cases before problems occur.
In fact, the vision behind this advanced technology rests on four pillars. Designers wanted to develop an airless, connected, 3D printable and sustainable tire. That’s why the Uptis will be manufactured from 100% renewable or bio-sourced materials.
According to Cyrille Roget, Michelin Group Technical and Scientific Communication Director, the Uptis will first be manufactured in India, close to the Asian markets, which will be the first targeted. “We want to test it where road conditions are the worst,” he explained, adding that some North American roads could also qualify.
Vehicles in these markets will be delivered from the factory with Uptis tires. Naturally, Michelin hopes consumers will choose Uptis tires when the time comes to buy a set of replacement tires. For now, however, it’s impossible to put a price tag on this new product, which will certainly impact the tire market. Michelin representatives have limited their talk track to saying that the price will reflect the technologies and advancements that it embodies.
Michelin already sells a tire featuring this technology, the Tweel, but its applications are limited to agricultural machinery and front-end loaders.