Uptis: Michelin and GM Working on Airless Tire for New Chevy Bolt

There has been a lot of news about airless tires recently, but now it sounds like the next-generation Chevy Bolt EV is getting a pair. Michelin and GM are working together to create a one-of-a-kind tire for the Bolt. The technical name for these airless tires is the Michelin Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System or Uptis.

The next-gen Chevy Bolt might get Michelin’s new airless tire

The Chevy Bolt testing an Uptis airless tire
The Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype being tested on a Chevy Bolt EV | Steve Fecht for General Motors)

According to a recent report from CNN, Michelin and GM are working on some big things behind the scenes. The life of the Chevy Bolt has been marred by bad press recently when the EV was spontaneously catching on fire. Since then, Chevy stopped and re-started production on the Bolt, but there are good things on the horizon.

“It could mark the decline of over 130 years of tire tradition but also the end of one of the most annoying aspects of car ownership: keeping air in the tires.”

CNN

As the world begins the gradual transition to electric vehicles, the same old tire just won’t do anymore. Alexis Garcin, president of Michelin North America, says that he wants the next-gen Chevy Bolt to be the first with this innovative airless tire. The big question now is: when will these airless tires show up? Garcin says within the next three to five years.

The Michelin Uptis tire has been spotted testing on the current Chevy Bolt EV

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While Michelin and GM are hoping to have these airless tires available on the next-gen Bolt, a prototype has been seen testing on the current Chevy Bolt. CNN says that the disadvantages of air-filled tires are plenty and obvious. Air can leak from the tires, causing the tire to go flat. Tires are also vulnerable to punctures, which can render the vehicle useless.

While tire makers have been working on keeping the air inside tires for years, it is still a pretty common occurrence. The Michelin Uptis tire has “flexible ribs to provide a sort of spring action; roughly the same way air does in a pneumatic tire.” That allows the tire to work as intended, even without air in it. The tire sides are open and do not hold any air inside.

But while this idea has been around for a long time, it has never been readily available for passenger cars for a few reasons. Air has some advantages over airless tires. Drivers can inflate or deflate tires to act differently in certain situations. Trucks going off-roading usually use less air pressure, allowing the tire to have more area over loose sand and dirt. Then, drivers can reinflate the tires for regular roads.

The Uptis airless tire isn’t the same as the X Tweel airless tire

Automakers have been engineering cars and vehicle suspension systems for a century, assuming the car would be utilizing air-inflated tires. Changing to an airless tire could throw things out of whack at first. Michelin has been trying to make the Uptis tire act as closely to regular air-filled tires as possible using the Chevy Bolt.

Michelin has an airless tire on the market specifically made for ATVs and lawnmowers, called the X Tweel. CNN says this has the wheel integrated into it and can cost over $600. The tire maker says these tires last longer and offer a more comfortable ride. The Uptis tire and the X Tweel will have a lot in common, except for the tire’s construction. The Uptis has “central ribs that hold it up are made from rubber reinforced with resin-injected fiberglass.” The X Tweel has ribs made of polyurethane.

This is why the Chevy Bolt comes into play. It gives Michelin an actual vehicle to test the airless tire on throughout the process. Plus, the next Bolt is probably priced around $32,000, hopefully making the first passenger airless tires an affordable option on an affordable car.

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