Prototype of the Michelin airless tire - Uptis was unveiled In Europe this year on the Mini Electric car. The Uptis is expected to be launched in the US on the General Motors Chevy Bolt EV vehicle by 2024.
When the TWEEL® concept appeared in 2005, MICHELIN® Tweel's first tire looked like another futuristic experiment. Tires supported by spokes instead of air looked like bicycle tires. The unusual design of the tire raised doubts that something like this would ever appear on the roads.
The French manufacturer has developed a prototype tire based on the Tweel concept that is expected to appear on the roads in a few years. The working name for this tire is Uptis abbreviation for Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System - "Unique puncture resistant tire system". The name itself is associated with one important feature of UPTIS - that the tire cannot get punctured, it's the airless tire. There is no doubt that Michelin marketing will come up with a more attractive name before the tires go on sale.
Compared to conventional pneumatic tires, Uptis offers a number of advantages. The most obvious of these is that it can never be punctured, you are free to drive over broken glass, nails, screws and various sharp objects. These tires do not require maintenance or periodic air pressure checks. Every vehicle equipped with Uptis tires does not need to have a jack, spare wheel and pressure control system (TPMS), which reduces vehicle weight and costs.
Another important advantage of UPTIS is that these tires can be retreaded. When a tire wears out, instead of replacing it with a new one, a new layer of rubber can be applied. This means that the Uptis could last longer than the vehicle itself. They also have very high lateral stiffness, which can improve handling.
Puncture resistant airless tire technology will drastically reduce the number (volume) of used waste tires. Since tires are severe polluters of the environment, this is another advantage of airless tires.
Tweel tires that preceded UPTIS have commercial applications on off-road vehicles such as skid steers, lawn mowers, ATVs and UTVs, etc. Developing Tweel tires, Michelin has learned a lot and now is the time to apply the knowledge to new tires for passenger cars.
Tweel is not used on cars and trucks because it is specially designed for industrial applications. Tweel tires have spokes reinforced with polyurethane for additional rigidity, but UPTIS is all rubber reinforced with fiberglass and resin which makes it more flexible than Tweel.
General Motors is currently testing non-pneumatic tires on the Chevy Bolt EV electric car.
Another disadvantage of Tweel in driving on the road is the noise. On flat surfaces, they are comparable to pneumatic tires, but bumps on the road produce much more noise due to insufficient elasticity of the tire.
This should not be a problem for Uptis and its more resilient construction. The ride quality is better than run-flat tires, but it's still worse than Michelin pneumatic tires. Michelin expects Uptis to be quieter than pneumatic tires.
Michelin has not officially announced prices yet, because Uptis is still years away from entering the market. But prices should be comparable to run-flat tires, because during development the goal was to achieve a level of run-flat tire prices.
Uptis will be launched on GM cars by 2024.