Michelin and General Motors have teamed up to literally reinvent the wheel with a new generation of high-tech airless tires.
The automotive companies' Uptis (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) prototype grabbed headlines after it was presented at the Movin'On Summit on sustainable mobility in Montreal this week.
It doesn't have a traditional sidewall and carries a load by the top via a resin-embedded fiberglass material that Michelin already has 50 patents for, according to Car and Driver.
"The idea was to develop a technology that was strong enough to carry the load but light enough to replace the air," Cyrille Roget, technical and scientific communication director for the Michelin Group, told the magazine.
"If you have a load on the tire and you cut all the spokes at the bottom, you will see that nothing will change, demonstrating that the load is carried by the top of it, not by the under parts."
There are quite a few advantages to airless tires, the most obvious being that the risk of flats or dangerous roadside blowouts is totally eliminated. A Michelin press releases states that approximately 200 million tires are scrapped prematurely every year worldwide due to damage.
The Uptis also requires virtually no maintenance and would have a significantly longer lifespan than pressurized counterparts.
That means that the environmental impact of the tire industry would drastically decrease if the technology was adopted widely.
It could happen in the next five years. The Uptis is already being tested on the Chevrolet Bolt, and later this year, a fleet of the EVs will spin the Uptis in real-world trials.
Ultimately, the goal is to begin offering the Uptis on passenger vehicles in 2024.
Soon, all of our pothole worries will be a thing of the past.