Michelin: Airless Tire Prototype
Michelin, the French tire manufacturer, has developed an airless tire prototype called UPTIS (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) that aims to solve the problem of flat tires for good. According to Michelin's website documenting the development of UPTIS, 20% of tires are discarded each year due to flats or rapid pressure loss. This amounts to over 200 million tires wasted - the equivalent of 200 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower.
UPTIS consists of a combination aluminum wheel and flexible composite structure that provides support and cushioning without the use of air. Currently, Michelin says it is the only manufacturer running prototypes of airless tires on public roads under real-world conditions through commercial partnerships. Over 3 million kilometers have been accumulated on UPTIS prototypes so far in tests in Las Vegas, Thailand, and now Singapore through a partnership with DHL Express.
Michelin argues UPTIS provides benefits to drivers, fleet operators, and the environment. Motorists would not have to worry about flats or dealing with tires that lose air overnight. Fleet managers could see reduced vehicle downtime and eliminate tire maintenance needs like pressure checks. And significantly fewer tires would ultimately be discarded due to punctures if airless tires were widely adopted.
While still a prototype technology, Michelin's website notes UPTIS has required over 50 related patents. If testing continues to prove successful, airless tires such as UPTIS could potentially revolutionize the tire industry and help make sustainable mobility a reality.