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Say Goodbye To Flats: Michelin Plans To Produce Airless Tires

Photo Courtesy of General Motors

It’s been more than a century since the invention of the automobile and during that time there’s been a wealth of technological advances, yet there’s still the inherent risk of a flat tire.  From massive potholes to worn down tires, a flat can truly ruin your day and leave you stranded on the side of the road – but the threat of a flat tire might soon come to an end. Michelin unveiled a new, airless tire early last week and it could just revolutionize the automotive industry in the next few years.

In the United States, flat tires occur at an incredible rate – almost seven punctures every second – and that translates to upwards of 220 million wasted tires each year.  Michelin wants to significantly reduce that number with its new Uptis tire, which debuted at the Movin’ On with Michelin mobility conference in Montreal.  A smaller number of wasted tires has the potential to not only lead to safer driving but also to limit the environmental impact, significantly reducing the company’s need for raw materials. The Uptis, which stands for Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System, is a joint research agreement with General Motors and could be in production for passenger vehicles as soon as 2024, with current plans to test it in the real world with a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt EVs in Michigan.

Fleets could see the most benefit from a tire of this nature, as the Uptis tire lessens the need for replacing flat tires that are a product of poor road conditions and debris, a hassle that costs companies a significant amount of both time and money every year due to repairs.  Specially designed for passenger vehicles that maintain a high rate of speed on highways, the technology behind the Uptis tire could become the market standard, as well as for autonomous vehicles currently in development. That would come in handy, since there’d be no driver to change a flat.  According to Michelin, the tires won’t feel any different while driving, since the Uptis tire weighs about the same as the current standard tire and was designed with a smooth ride in mind.

It’s unclear at this time just what the exact business trajectory is for these new tires or how much they’ll cost consumers, but if this technology is perfected, the Uptis tire might be the standard.  The benefits are certainly there, let’s just hope they’re not priced out of the realm of affordability. The future might just be here sooner than we all thought.