At the Movin' On Summit for sustainable mobility held in Montreal, Michelin and General Motors introduced a new airless tire and wheel system that the companies say could be available on passenger cars as soon as 2024. They're calling it the UPTIS Prototype, or Unique Puncture-proof Tire System.
Flat tires caused by punctures have been a problem since Irishman John Dunlop developed the first successful pneumatic tires, and it seems like tire companies have been trying to make flat-proof airless tires ever since.
The UPTIS replaces the conventional pressurized air that supports a tire with a series of flexible struts that let the tire sidewall conform to the road surface as a normal pneumatic tire would.
In addition to the convenience factor of not having to deal with flat tires, there are environmental benefits to airless tires. Fewer punctured or damaged tires would have to be scrapped before the end of their useful lives, reducing the use of raw materials and energy for producing replacement tires. Eliminating the problem of over- or under-inflated tires would make them last longer, as well as contributing to better overall fuel economy. Also, airless puncture-proof tires eliminate the need to carry a spare, which reduces weight and improves gas mileage.
There is also a safety benefit, as drivers won't have to cope with trying to control their vehicle after a tire blows out.
Real-world testing of the UPTIS Prototype will begin later this year in Michigan, with the newfangled tires mounted to a test fleet of Chevrolet Bolt battery-electric cars.