In 2019, Michelin introduced a new type of tire that eliminates the problem of having flats or blow-outs. Called the Uptis (Unique Puncture-proof tire system), the special tire makes use of deformable spokes instead of air, making them immune to punctures or any other types of tire damage.
Since then, the tire company has been working with General Motors (GM), as well as with other automakers, to make the Uptis ready for customers. But the important question is this: When will the tire be available on the market?
At this year's International Motor Show Germany (IAA), Michelin announced that the Uptis is on track for its market introduction in 2024. To prove that it's on its way, the French tire maker publicly demonstrated its capabilities at the show. Using a Mini Electric as a demo car, lucky showgoers were able to see and experience for themselves the new airless tire.
The result? Michelin claims passengers, who were at first wary of the Uptis, said that they felt no difference between a standard tire and the airless tire.
“The truly distinctive structure of the Michelin Uptis prototype, or its ‘weirdness’ as we have often heard it called, really attracted the attention of many visitors and left a lasting impression on them. It was an exceptional experience for us, and our greatest satisfaction came at the end of the demonstration when our passengers, who were admittedly a little wary at first, said they felt no difference compared with conventional tires,” said Cyrille Roget, Michelin Group Technical and Scientific Communication Director.
Unlike traditional radial tires, the Michelin Uptis uses an aluminum wheel with a load-bearing structure made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). It also has flexible rubber composites and the aforementioned deformable spokes. Michelin says that despite its unique design, the Uptis can fit conventional wheels.
With punctures not a problem for the Uptis, the tires can be used to their full extent. Michelin also claims the Uptis will be more environmentally friendly, use fewer raw materials, and last longer. According to an in-house survey, around 20% of all tires are discarded prematurely every year due to flats and irregular wear. In total, about 200 million tires are wasted annually.
Could the Uptis make a big difference in reducing tire waste? And will other tire companies (or automakers) warm up to Michelin's upcoming airless tire? We're hoping Michelin will be able to demonstrate its capabilities once it's available here in the Philippines.