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GM and Michelin Want to Take the Air Out of Tires

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Photo: Michelin

Although airless tires have long been discussed, they’re getting closer to reality. General Motors and Michelin have revealed a design for practical, durable, airless tires. The prototype is named “Uptis,” short for “Unique puncture-proof tire system.”

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Where the rubber meets the road

While airless tires sound cool and convenient, they’ve typically remained as concepts — much like flying cars and other neat-but-impractical innovations. Uptis, on the other hand, is making huge strides towards roadworthiness.

Uptis tires are made from a mix of composite rubber and resin-embedded fiberglass. This durable mix provides the right mix of sturdiness and comfort. Whether or not you find them visually appealing, Michelin claims that these tires offer the same smooth ride as a conventional set of wheels.

The first set of Uptis tires will hit the pavement in 2019. Donned by a fleet of Chevy Bolts, these electrified vehicles will help GM and Michelin hone the airless tire design. GM would like to incorporate Uptis tires into select models by 2024.

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Benefits of going airless

As technology advances, airless tires are becoming more than an auto show curiosity. These innovative wheels offer significant financial and safety benefits. While they aren’t indestructible, Uptis tires are immune to blowouts, flats, and irregular wear.

Plus, it reduces the need for raw tire materials and cuts down on environmentally damaging tire waste. For instance, 20 percent of tires get scrapped due to puncture damage, 12 percent get ditched because of blowouts, and another 8 percent wind up in the dump due to irregular wear. Overall, 200 million tires get ditched every year — and Uptis has the potential to drastically cut that amount of waste. For an even greener driving experience, Michelin plans to make Uptis tires out of renewable resources.

Don’t just take our word for it — check out Michelin’s video below.

Sources: Engadget, Michelin