Michelin develops new airless tyre

Flat tyres could soon be a thing of the past thanks as airless tyres could be here in 2024

Michelin says it can eliminate flat tyres and punctures by building a tyre that requires no air at all. The firm has developed a prototype called Uptis — Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System — that it will be refining in partnership with GM over the next few years. The goal is to launch a production tyre in 2024.

Designed for passenger cars and small SUVs, Uptis (Michelin calls it an "airless mobility solution") takes an aluminum wheel assembly and wraps it in a composite material mixing rubber and a high-strength resin embedded fiberglass. Instead of an air-filled rubber tube, a series of "spokes" hold the weight of the car and provide similar handling and performance to a standard, air-filled pneumatic tyre, says Michelin.

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Aside from the obvious benefits of not needing to worry about having the correct amount of pressure in your tyre, improving fuel economy and promoting even wear, there are sustainability benefits as well. The tyres will last significantly longer, not least because Michelin aims to develop a 3D printing system to allow a new tread to be applied to an existing Uptis tyre.

"The sustainability aspect is critical for the next ten years," explained Eric Vinesse, Michelin Group Executive VP for research and development. "We have an ambition in the next 30 years to be 80 per cent renewable in everything. We need to move towards a more sustainable future where we can provide solutions that have less impact on the environment overall. There’s a global benefit for society and everybody."

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Similar to how semi-truck tyres are recapped, Michelin envisions that a brand new 3D-printed tread could be installed in an existing airless tyre, reducing raw materials and energy spent building entirely new tyres. Michelin claims this production cycle could eliminate an estimated 200 million tyre replacements every year.

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