Michelin and GM have been testing the prototype on vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and disclosed that they intend to initiate real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan.
"General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology," Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, said.
"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," Kiefer said.
From GM's perspective, Uptis represents a maintenance-free product that offers the prospect of essentially no tire and wheel-related breakdowns.
Kiefer said GM likely would introduce the product on a limited basis, targeting electric vehicles and fleets, which also could lead to development work on autonomous vehicles. Eventually, though, GM foresees airless tire/wheel composites as compatible with its full range of passenger vehicles, Kiefer said, declining to comment on the extent of GM's exclusivity with Michelin on this product.
Uptis part of
According to Michelin, the airless aspect of the Uptis means drivers of passenger vehicles feel safer on the road and operators of passenger vehicle fleets will minimize downtime and improve efficiency.
In addition, society at large should see benefits from "extraordinary" environmental savings through reduced use of raw materials for a replacement tire or spare tire production.
Vinesse said the Uptis tire/wheel assembly weighs about 5 percent more than a comparable pneumatic tire/wheel assembly, but using an airless tire/wheel product eliminates the need for a spare, resulting in a net weight improvement for the vehicle.
Michelin claims the Uptis prototype represents a major advancement toward achieving its Vision Concept, which debuted at the 2017 Movin'On Summit. The Vision Concept introduced four key pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3D printed and 100 percent sustainable, using entirely renewable or biosourced materials.
"Uptis demonstrates that Michelin's vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream," Michelin Group CEO Florent Menegaux said. "Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today."
Vinesse stressed that developing a product like Uptis could help Michelin generated "extraordinary" environmental savings by cutting into the approximately 200 million tires worldwide that are scrapped prematurely every year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear.
Vinesse also acknowledged an airless tire/wheel product like Uptis could lead to a resurgence in retreading of consumer tires, although retreading in this sense likely would involve 3D printing of new treads.