Michelin has been working hard to bring an airless tire to the consumer market, and it looks like they're now actively testing their version called the Uptis along with General Motors. Airless tires will be the first radical change to tires since runflats (which we're less than impressed with) were introduced about a decade ago. The airless tire could take the tire industry by storm and change more than just the way the tire looks.
The new technology could be here sooner than you think, but to what extent, and will car manufacturers and consumers be quick to adopt them? We're here to soundly debunk the myths about the Uptis (and any other versions that come after). Here are four things most people assume are true but aren't about airless tires and their future.
1. They Just Aren't Safe
Quite the contrary, actually. The primary goal of an airless tire is to eliminate dangerous blowouts and flat tires. The rigid but compliant ribs that make up the structure of an airless tire allow it to operate without air. Michelin spent time and significant investment to develop an airless tire that can manage bumps, potholes, highway speeds, and the stresses a car's weight and forces put on the tires.
2. They're Just for Industrial Use
The Michelin Tweel industrial tire has been used on construction and heavy equipment for a couple of years now, as well as on some military vehicles. The plan was never to relegate the airless tire just for these limited applications but to push them to consumers, but the technology wasn't there yet. The Uptis can be 3D printed and utilize sustainable materials. It will also last longer than conventional tires, which means there's far less tire waste to worry about.
3. They Don't Look Very Good
Early renditions of the airless tire looked weird. It was hard to imagine a car looking good without conventional tires because the airless tire had exposed ribs, and you could see through them, but the Uptis is merged with a dark metal wheel in the center (it's actually attached to the structure of the Uptis tire), and we think it looks pretty sporty. And whatever it may lack in terms of looks is easily made up for by its incredibly low maintenance and high level of safety.
4. They're Never Going to be Mainstream
The push for more sustainability across industries, as well as increases in safety, make the time right for the Uptis. Okay, so maybe the name still needs work, but the execution looks pretty good. Michelin wants to make a mass market airless tire, whether it's the Uptis or another model somewhere down the line. The fact that GM is actually testing the Bolt with the Uptis proves Michelin is doing something right. They plan on releasing an airless tire for the consumer market as early as 2024.
Here's a closer look at the Uptis in Michelin's video: