Could a tire be puncture-free, better for the environment, and minimize danger on roads? It sounds almost too good to be true.
But, General Motors (GM) and Michelin have teamed up to execute exactly that, creating an airless tire.
The tire will be called Uptis, and is due to launch in 2024.
"Unique Puncture-proof Tire System"
"Uptis" as it is more simply called, was first unveiled at the Movin'On Summit for sustainable mobility in 2017. The aim is for a complete reshuffle of conventional wheels and tires, so that they are fully replaced as an assembly unit for passenger cars.
GM's plan is to start tests at the end of this year on their Michigan-based Bolt Electic Vehicles (EVs).
The airless tire has all-round benefits: less raw material and energy are used in their production, the amount of scrapped tires due to punctures or damage will dramatically minimize, wear and tear issues due to over or under inflation will be eliminated, and roads will become safer with fewer blowouts or flat tires.
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According to GM, the incredibly large number of yearly scrapped tires currently amasses up to a whopping 200 million.
That's a high number of tires to replace.
Why haven't we thought of this sooner?
Michelin has been on the case since 2005 when it unveiled its Tweel system. The Uptis is a production-ready version of the Tweel system.
Furthermore, in 2014 Michelin made light of its new US$ 50 million plant for airless tire production. Currently, the Tweel is produced and used for non-passenger vehicles, such as in construction and farm equipment.
For those not navigating such large vehicles, the Uptis will be just the ticket. Michelin further states that these airless tires won't feel any different to our current, very air-filled ones.
What is yet to be revealed is the cost of the tire system, and which type of vehicles it will function with.
So far there has only been talk of fleets and shared or rented vehicles using the airless tires. So we may have to wait a while before consumer-level costs become clear and much more affordable.