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- The Michelin UPTIS Prototype. Pic Source: michelinmedia.com

The Future of Tires: Airless

I hate punctured tires and every person who has had them will know exactly what I am talking about. It is even worse for people who own cars without a spare wheel, getting those tires fixed are a bit pricy.

However, Michelin and GM have formed a collaboration for airless tires and this could really be the future of tires. This past week Michelin have announced that they are ready to put UPTIS into testing. UPTIS is their 'Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System' and is partnering with Chevrolet for real world testing using the Chevy Bolt electric vehicle. If the testing goes well we will see it on the roads by 2024.

..there are ribs instead of tubes..

Okay, I will do my best to explain how this works. Part of a wheel is the rim, this part is aluminium or carbon fibre or alloy and comes in designs, either manufacture or aftermarket and also in any colour - chrome, gloss black, gold, same paint as your car, etcetera. Then you have the tire which is made from the inner tube and the outer wall which has the tread on it (there are more but, they fall under both of these parts). Michelin have removed the tube and introduced a rib between the wheel and tread. The rib is a composite rubber and a high-strength resin-embedded fibreglass material in the design you see. This is said to give it a lot of durability. So it is like saying you got a rim and a rubber shock absorbing rim and tire tread. It is like getting your car an extra set of shocks.

There are a few advantages to having airless tires. The very first being no more punctures. Now we don’t have to worry about it, and we have more space in the car without a spare tire, reduced weight in car will result in more efficient cars. Incase we don’t have a spare tire, and for people who own cars without spare tires they will also be at peace knowing they cannot get a puncture. Also we will spend less money on little gadgets like tire pressure monitoring systems and automatic air pumps for tires.

For a company like Michelin who produce a lot a tires they will require less resources, save energy and produce less emissions for manufacturing tires and meeting the demand of spares. Less wastage will be there, as certain tires are scrapped before the end of their lifespan, if these come into the markets Michelin will save on 2 million tonnes in waste.

For a businesses like car rental and dealers there will less time saved for inspection of tires for pressure and damages. They will also spend less money on tire maintenance and you might get a rental at a cheaper rate and less to worry about punctures as well.

Its application in motorsport is what interests me. If these tires make their way to motorsport and they probably will, we might see tire weight conversations and rather than tire pressure and temperature conversations. I bet these will look really cool on a formula 1 car as well. Along with this we might also see instant traction and less team orders for tire conservation.

I cannot see/find many disadvantages for this or any disadvantages actually. Based on just the advantages we know one thing - the future of tires is airless. What do you think - should we have airless tires as the only tires? Let me know in the comments.

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