MONTREAL. Michelin and General Motors presented a new generation of airless wheel technology for passenger vehicles — the Michelin Uptis prototype (or “Unique Puncture-proof Tire System”) — at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility.
Michelin and GM also announced an agreement to validate the Uptis Prototype and set a goal of introducing Uptis on passenger models as early as 2024. It is a significant jump ahead from a prediction at last year's Movin'On Summit.
Michelin and GM are testing the Uptis Prototype, beginning with vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Later this year, the companies will initiate real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan. A Michelin spokesman said the new technology could be used in real-world SUV applications, but did not offer any specific timeline.
The companies said because Uptis is airless, the wheel assembly eliminates the risk of flat tires and blowouts. Besides improved safety, there are also environmental savings through reduced use of raw materials for replacement tires or spare tire production.
The prototype originates from the Michelin Tweel Technology, created back in 2012. It is an airless radial tire with wheel assembly. With a semi-rigid “shear beam” forming a flexible, mechanical spring around the outside of the tire, the wheel can be added in any bolt hole. What makes the tweel technology airless are the high strength poly-resin spokes. This technology results in low contact pressure, operator comfort and low overall mass.
The tweel tires are used for other industrial purposes, such as lawn mowers, ATVs and golf carts.
“Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream,” said Florent Menegaux, chief executive officer for Michelin Group. “Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today.”
“General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology,” said Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, General Motors. “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.”
This design represents a major advancement toward achieving Michelin’s VISION concept, which was presented at the Movin’On Summit in 2017 as an illustration of Michelin’s strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility. The VISION concept introduced four main pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3D-printed and 100% sustainable (entirely renewable or bio-sourced materials).
“The Uptis Prototype demonstrates Michelin’s capacity for innovation — in both the mastery of these high-tech materials, and also the development approach in close collaboration with GM, which validates our Vision concept as a roadmap for innovation,” said Eric Vinesse, executive vice president, research and development, Group Michelin, who revealed Uptis at the Movin’On Summit. “Uptis represents progress toward Michelin’s vision for tomorrow’s mobility, and also embodies our commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all.”