Michelin and General Motors joined hands to use the recent Movin’On Summit as the platform to launch a new generation of airless wheel technology for passenger vehicles. Called the MICHELIN Uptis Prototype (or “Unique Puncture-proof Tire System”), the new range marks a significant development in sustainable mobility.
The two companies have also finalized a joint research agreement as part of which they would validate the Uptis Prototype. According to the current timeline, they plan to deliver a viable Uptis for passenger models as early as 2024.
Michelin and GM are currently engaged in trials of the Uptis Prototype, and will later in this year conduct real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan.
The Uptis technology is airless and hence the breakthrough wheel assembly totally eliminates the dangerous risk of flat tires and blowouts. One of the advantages the system offers is that it would enhance the safety of drivers of passenger vehicles. When it comes to fleets of passenger vehicles, there would be minimal downtime and greater efficiency thanks to the need for minimal maintenance and zero possibility of flat tires. The general public would benefit as the environment would improve considerably due to reduced use of raw materials for replacement tire or spare tire production.
The Uptis Prototype marks a major advance in Michelin’s drive to realize its VISION concept. The concept was initially presented at the Movin’On Summit in 2017 as part of Michelin’s strategy for research and development in sustainable mobility. The VISION concept is based on four key principles related to innovation: airless, connected, 3D-printed and 100 percent sustainable (entirely renewable or bio-sourced materials).
“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.”
Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, General Motors said that General Motors was excited about the potential Uptis offered and was thrilled to work with Michelin on this breakthrough technology. He said that Uptis would propel the automotive industry into the future and served as an example of how GM’s customers benefited when the company collaborates and innovates with its supplier partners.
The Uptis Prototype has been re-engineered for the passenger vehicles that are seen on the roads today and can be used in emerging forms of mobility as well. It would be possible to use this technology in the vehicles and fleets of the future — whether they are autonomous, all-electric, shared service or other applications. Their operating capabilities would be optimized with the use of this technology as Uptis demand near-zero maintenance from the tire.
“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. He said that Uptis represented the progress Michelin has made in achieving its vision for tomorrow’s mobility, and also highlighted the company’s commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all.
Uptis features ground-breaking improvements in architecture and composite materials and these improvements make it possible for the system to bear the car’s weight at road-going speeds. The system leverages these innovations to eliminate compressed air so that it can support the weight of the vehicle’s load, and the end result is extraordinary environmental savings. About 200 million tires end up on the scrap heap prematurely every year due to punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear.
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