Michelin's Airless Tire Is One Step Closer To Reality

Technology / 13 Comments

The Uptis tire has been tested at speeds of up to 130 mph, and it reportedly held up remarkably well.

French tire company Michelin is one step closer to making airless tires a reality and is well into the development of its Uptis tire technology.

Michelin is a pioneer in its industry, so it comes as no surprise it is pushing hard for the next step in car tires. Airless technology would have major benefits for motorists, but it isn't without its drawbacks and difficulties. Perhaps that's why Michelin has been working on this design for two decades and still isn't ready to bring it to market. Yet.

The latest news on the tech comes courtesy of The Drive, which was told by company officials that the Uptis airless tire has been tested at speeds of up to 130 mph, which will benefit a specialist market: law enforcement.


Senior Vice President Bruno de Feraudy told the publication that Michelin had been approached by European police who believe the airless tires will help them catch suspects. Criminals often disable police vehicles by puncturing the tires. "So they wanted to test Uptis, and they tested it at [130 mph] on our internal test circuit. And it worked well," said de Feraudy.

Michelin demonstrated the unique tire some years ago, fitting a Chevrolet Bolt EV with the Uptis rubber and letting it loose on a test track. Aside from the aforementioned benefits, the airless tire is more resistant to blowouts and punctures, which means it lasts longer and is, therefore, more sustainable. Speaking of sustainability, the Uptis tire requires fewer raw materials, reducing its footprint on the environment.


De Feraudy made no mention of what type of vehicle the tire was fitted to in its speed testing, but as police cars vary from country to country in Europe, the tires would need to work on anything from an Opel Police patrol car to a BMW 5 Series.

When the Uptis tire was originally announced in 2019, it was planned for a 2024 market launch, but officials would not confirm this timeline with The Drive.

While the future of tires looks promising, the Uptis tire won't replace the conventional rubber we're used to - for now, at least. Instead, it will be a niche product sold alongside regular tires. Company CEO Florent Menegaux believes Uptis tires will be useful in the autonomous future.

"In autonomous vehicles, what you [won't] have [is] a call within the vehicle to say 'sorry, there is a puncture, can you get out of the vehicle and replace the tire.'" Instead of replacing conventional tires, the Uptis design would be used in areas where the possibility of a puncture is simply not an option.


Apart from GM, Michelin has reportedly been in talks with Tesla. "Now we have various discussions with General Motors, with Tesla, with certain vehicle makers to see what type of applications could be suitable," added Menegaux.

While the idea of airless tires seems brilliant, it's worth remembering the benefits of air within the tire. That compressed combination of gases helps maintain rigidity, not just an absorbing factor when going over bumps, but as a means of preventing deformation when lateral loads are placed on the rubber. Whether the Uptis tire will be able to replicate these properties is still to be seen, but we doubt Michelin will release a product for consumer use before it is fully capable of replacing traditional tires.


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