GM, Michelin Team Up for Airless Tires

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
gm michelin team up for airless tires

General Motors and tiremaker Michelin no doubt hope a joint research agreement announced Tuesday bears riper fruit than Goodyear’s early-60s attempt to offer illuminated Neothane tires.

The two companies plan to develop and test an airless, puncture-resistant tire, aka the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (Uptis), with the intent to introduce the product on GM vehicles by 2024. Is the era of the steel-belted radial drawing to a close?

Michelin calls its prototype tire the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, or “Uptis” for short. Looking like baffles in an old silencer, the tire tread is supported by rubber composite fins that deform slightly when compressed, mimicking an air-filled tire. Fiberglass resin lends the material strength and durability, though testing will determine just how durable it is.

GM and Michelin made the announcement at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility, with the automaker claiming the tire design would reduce waste and save lives. By nature of its construction, the tire cannot be underinflated and can never suffer a blowout or flat.

Steve Kiefer, GM’s senior VP for global purchasing and supply chain, said in a statement, “Uptis is an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future and a great example of how our customers benefit when we collaborate and innovate with our supplier partners.”

Testing should begin on a fleet of Chevrolet Bolts later this year. The company made a point of mentioning its test locale — the cracked and potholed roads of Michigan — as proof of the tire’s rigorous shakedown. A video featured in the announcement shows a Bolt tooling sedately along a closed course, encountering a pothole along the way.

Michelin keeps its rights to the tire under this agreement, meaning it could offer them to any manufacturer or buyer.

Should the prototype tire prove viable for passenger vehicle use (airless Michelin Tweel tires are already available for non road vehicles), the addition would see trunk space expand, given the lack of need for a space-saver spare, jack, or inflator kit. A lot has to happen before the tire goes into service, however; this northern writer wonders how the open-sided design would prevent deep snow and slush from unbalancing a vehicle’s tires after a night in a cold parking lot.

[Images: General Motors]

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  • Rpol35 Rpol35 on Jun 05, 2019

    They look a whole lot like the "tires" that a front loader working a scrap yard uses. Setco ( in southern Oklahoma makes them; I somehow toured their plant years ago.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Jun 06, 2019

      Was shopping John Deere at their store a couple months back - similar tires are installed on many of their pieces of equipment for agricultural and commercial use.

  • -Nate -Nate on Jun 05, 2019

    Subscribed . I just muscled my car through wine country back roads for two days and can't imagine these things replacing balloon tires . -Nate

  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.