Airless tires have been around for a long time on industrial machinery like forklifts and other devices. However, those tires haven’t been available for passenger vehicles until now. Michelin is showing off a new airless tire that relies on rubber “c” shapes underneath the tread in the area where air would normally help the tire maintain pressure. Anyone who’s ever had a flat tire can immediately see the benefit of the Uptis tire; no air means no leaks and no flats.
Another major benefit to going airless is a more durable tire resulting in fewer tires being tossed into the landfill each year. Lastly, since the tire has no air inside, you don’t have to check pressures. The tire is always at the optimal pressure fuel efficiency in handling. Uptis tires have a design that allows the tire to be tuned to the individual application by adjusting the stiffness of the internal structure.
Michelin says the tire’s bump handling characteristics allow the vehicle to eliminate suspension components in some vehicles. Another benefit of having an internal rubber structure rather than air is that holes can be drilled through the tread, making it easier for water to escape helping the vehicle handle better in a wet environment.
Uptis tires are estimated to last three times larger than standard tires, require less energy in construction, and require less raw materials. That makes them significantly better for the environment, considering that about 200 million tires are thrown into landfills due to blowouts or unrepairable punctures each year.
Getting the tires just right has taken over a decade and a half. One potential caveat for the new tire is that it does require new specialized wheels as well. However, Michelin maintains Uptis tires, and the specialized rims have a significantly longer lifespan than traditional tires, yet feel the same from behind the wheel. The tires add approximately seven percent more weight to the wheel, which could be a potential downside for electric vehicles.
More weight for an EV means less driving range. General Motors was a partner in developing the tire and expects to offer them as an option as early as 2024. Currently, Michelin is working on getting regulatory approvals to use the tires on public streets in the US.