Michelin’s Airless Tires Aim to Stop Flats Forever. Here’s When You’ll See Them.
General Motors teamed up with the brand to create the Uptis Prototype
As new technological innovations emerge at an ever-increasing pace, why are cars are stuck in the past? Sure, we’ve got Apple CarPlay and LED headlights, but there are so many basic automotive elements that should really have been “disrupted” by now: gas mileage, oil changes, the engine light that stays on even though the dealership says to not worry about it, flat tires …
The first three are coming along very slowly. Flat tires and blowouts, however, may soon be a thing of the past. This week, Michelin and General Motors unveiled a new airless tire prototype called Uptis (or “Unique Puncture-proof Tire System”) and even have the test photos on a Chevrolet Bolt EV to back it up. No concept drawings here.
We’ve written about airless tires for bicycles and more bicycles, but we have yet to see one available for cars. In a press release, General Motors said it will start real-world testing Uptis this year and aims to introduce them on passenger vehicles by 2024.
How exactly does Uptis work? As Fast Company writes, it “features an internal system of flexible spokes that support the tire,” offering the uniform reinforcement of air-filled tires while also being forgiving and sturdy on rough roads. Bonus: You’ll never under- or over-inflate these puppies.
Of course, there are many questions off the bat. Won’t debris get into holes from the side? Will “wintry mix” freeze in there and turn them into ice blocks? And most presciently, won’t we buy fewer airless tires than traditional tires?
“But of course, Michelin isn’t in the air business; it’s in the tire business,” writes Fast Company. “Just because its Uptis tires can’t leak doesn’t mean they won’t still wear out.”
Watch them in action in Michelin’s announcement video below:
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