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Michelin and GM are underway to develop the world's first series production airless tyre. Michelin and a few other tyre manufacturers have been working on such futuristic tyre designs for a few years now,however, nothing actually materialised and such tyres remained concepts.
Now though, General Motors has decided to push it into production and chose Michelin as its partner to do so. The automotive world has constantly evolved right from the time the first ever gasoline-powered car was invented.
Almost everything about the car has changed since then, except for one little thing that is ignored most of the time — tyres. Yes, there have been improvements in tyres too over the years.
Radial tyres, tubeless tyres, steel-belted tyres, run-flat tyres, etc were all invented over the years, however the basic concept remained the same. The basic concept in question is one of the pneumatic system — Rubber tyre with or without a tube and air is filled into it.
There is no big problem as such with this arrangement. However, there are a few disadvantages. Disadvantages included air leaks, punctures, high-speed tyre blasts, instability at high temperatures, etc.
In-fact, research has proven that hundreds of deaths due to highway accidents were caused due to tyre blasts that rendered the vehicle uncontrollable at high speeds. Top tyre manufacturers like Michelin, Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, etc, knew that a new development had to be made and so they got to work on a new tyre concept.
However, this new airless tyre concept remained a concept until now. Though the top tyre manufacturers including Michelin had done all possible tests on such tyres, real-world testing on public roads and test tracks couldn't be done because they lacked backing from a car manufacturer.
Now though, Michelin has found a partner in General Motors and the two companies have come together and are testing the new tyre format with serious intentions of putting it to production. Michelin had named their concept as the Tweel, but once the partnership with GM fell in place, the same project is being carried forward under the 'Uptis' name.
In its current state, the Uptis looks like the skeletal structure of a conventional tyre. It still features the metal alloy wheel as its base and the tread looks similar to the conventional tyres we use everyday.
However, the sidewall of the tyre and the cavity inside it has been replaced by high-strength composite spokes. These composite spokes are strong but flexible. Hence, it retains the shape of a tyre when it is not under load, but when it is under load, the spokes fex, allowing the contact patch of the tyre to be flat, just like a normal tyre would be.
This also allows it to soak up bumps, potholes and stones just like a normal tyre would. It is just that, it requires no air to ride on. This very fact eliminates all threats and disadvantages that we were talking about earlier on.
The Uptis is now being tested by General Motors on a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt electric cars. Once they have been tested thoroughly, GM might push them into production and we will all get to see a revolution in the area of tyres.
Thoughts On Michelin & GM Enter Partnership To Produce Airless Tyres
There have been many prototypes of wheels and tyres over the last few years. Some manufacturers wanted to launch a tyre that could go sideways and in diagonal ways while some others stuck to the tweel concept. It is great to know that the tweel could soon go into production. The benefits of such tyres are endless.