By on June 4, 2019

GM

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.

GM

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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47 Comments on “GM, Michelin Team Up for Airless Tires...”


  • avatar
    Garrett

    So what sort of failures can it suffer, and are those more or less dangerous than a traditional flat? What about the materials used? Are those easier or harder to dispose of in an environmentally sound manner?

    When you think of flat tires, there are times where preventing a flat would be an improvement, but there are also times where allowing the flat to occur results in a tire replacement before something worse happens.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    GM involved – must hate the idea because of GM, Barra, Cadillac, bankruptcy.
    Michelin involved – they make great tires – really great tires.

    Must…hate…idea…Michelin…idea….good tires…but GM…Michelen…Michelob…mitch…general…

    Paradox
    Paradox
    Paradox

    System failure.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t know this might be a good thing. As for the Bolt it has good reviews–might be better than many of GM’s offerings.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    “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.” – prepare to pick up your new little tire brush from Autozone in the near future. It will only add about 4000% to your snow cleaning time.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Does anyone think it won’t have sidewalls in a production version. Right now they want to be able to see inside for analysis.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      Yeah I’ve had this problem with cars that have big, open space between the spokes. It only takes a little snow or ice in there to make the car feel like it has square tires. Some kind of sidewall is necessary to make this viable anywhere north of the Ohio.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    To solve another issue with tires – waste and landfills- they really need to make this new tire with biodegradable Vytex natural rubber. (Vytex will be replacing Latex soon). I think the composite fins are non-recyclable.

  • avatar
    FrankE39

    Everything that is old, is new again…

    I have a picture from the Detroit Car show 14 years ago (2005)
    of this tire from Michelin.

    I guess some bad ideas never die.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I could have sworn I’d seen something similar before and it was around 2005. I was getting ready to get my first decent car at the time and was reading random car related stuff and these popped up.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I remember reading about British soldiers at an air station using wheels of this design on their motor pool cars during World War II.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I guess the current run flats did not provide a crappy enough ride.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    So instead of slashing someone’s tires, you could simply slide a steel rod through one of the tire’s side tunnels so it wraps around the suspension when the car is moved.

    I share the same concerns about ice and slush. Also, how will the tire’s spring rate change with temperature? Rubber’s properties change a lot with temperature, and one of the advantages of a pneumatic tire is that the air provides a very stable spring rate.

  • avatar
    The_Guru

    No [email protected]#king thank you. Anything GM has its hands on that can blow up in its face spectacularly and kill people? No thanks. And that goes for Ford as well and its awesome history with tires(Did I do it right guys?).

  • avatar
    formula m

    I have seen similar tires on a couple of military prototype Polaris ATV’s on the military base here out side of Ottawa. Not sure how they work in the snow but you can’t puncture them with a bullet.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Wasn’t this a coup-fourré in Mille Bornes?

    (I know a few of you will get that reference!)

  • avatar
    smicallef427

    Having been the victim of a tire slashing, I think I’m ok with this! Never piss of a crazy girl haha

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Tinfoil hat time!!!

    You’ll never be able to convince me that a solid compound hasn’t been and cannot be created that can perform the same as air pressure inside a tire. A compound which would eliminate failures and allow for deeper tread and have the same outward appearance as pneumatically filled tires.

    Flats and tread wear are what have kept the tire companies in business. It would be detrimental to their profits if people didn’t suffer failures at a regular rate.

  • avatar
    mcs

    What happens if you park in a puddle and the puddle freezes overnight?

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    After having replaced the one of the absurdly large tires on my car this weekend, 2nd puncture in 5 weeks, I’m curious.

    I’m also curious if there’s a theoretical minimum requires sidewall, or maximum allowable wheel diameter.

    With regards to the open sidewalls, I imagine any tire that made it into production would be focus grouped and would have a standard rubber sidewall. There would probably be some special marking indicating that it’s an airless tire.

  • avatar

    Flying cars do not have these problems with tires. That is the cardinal solution. It also solves the problem of climate change.

  • avatar
    993cc

    Did they offer any information about the unsprung weight and rolling resistance of these compared to pneumatic tires?

    • 0 avatar
      theBrandler

      Looking at the tweel website for the offroad tires, they are about twice as heavy as a normal offroad tire. Incidentally, that makes them flat out destructive to put on an ATV or UTV because it’s more than the drive train or suspension is designed to work with. Putting them on my ATV would add 100lbs to my drive train!!! And 25lb to each corner!!!

      These are undoubtedly awful. What will probably happen is regular boring cars and SUVs will all end up getting these while the sports cars will stick with pneumatic to save weight and performance.

      And stop the conspiracy nonsense. The tread wears out on these just like regular tires. Unlike regular tires, you’ll only be able to get the tire made for your exact car because you won’t be able to adjust the PSI per your manufacturers spec to get the tire to wear correctly.

      That’s the money Micheline sees, making ooogobs more variety of tires and being able to charge more for it because they have to match each tire to each car model. Hell you might have to match front and back tires as well to account for weight distribution issues, as some vehicles require different PSI for front and rear tires.

  • avatar
    jimmeh72

    GM needs to instead focus on building an on/off switch for their engine start/stop system.

  • avatar
    rpol35

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

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Subscribed .

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

    -Nate


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