For the past fifty years, there hasn’t been a significant movement in the fundamental technology of tire manufacturing. However, times are changing, and new tire technology is said to be just around the bend. Several firms are wondering whether pneumatic tires are the end-all and be-all, and futuristic-looking prototypes have been sighted at trade fairs across the world. One of these is Michelin UPTIS, touted widely as one of the first airless tires.
Pneumatic tires were invented in the nineteenth century and were first used on an automobile by Andre Michelin in 1895, with mixed success. Over the next few decades, technology advanced at a tremendous pace, with advances arriving thick and fast. The pneumatic tire’s sole remaining servicing duty is to ensure it has air in it. To circumvent the complications caused by careless automobile owners, some manufacturers have developed designs for tires that do not need any air at all.
Michelin is working on a tire called the Uptis (or Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) that will never run flat or blow out since it does not require air to remain stiff. The stiff structure of a traditional tire is provided by air, which holds the side walls up and keeps the tread in touch with the road. The structure of an airless tire is given by spokes, which are typically composed of tough yet flexible plastic. These spokes allow the tire to absorb road bumps and are attached to an inner hub, which subsequently connects to the axle.
One of the most significant advantages is lateral stability. It offers the advantage of sharpening handling, which is especially useful for athletic and high-performance applications. Another topic of importance is the contact patch of an airless tire. Unlike air-filled tires, which must bulge out at the sides due to air pressure, an airless tire’s contact patch may be considerably more uniform and flatter.
Running under or overinflated tires can cause early tire wear, but with an airless construction, this isn’t a problem. Furthermore, manufacturers say that it should be feasible to simply and securely replace the tread on such systems with little to no performance degradation.
But, it does present with its own set of problems. One of the most obvious concerns at first look is the possibility of material being trapped in the spokes. The spokes must be able to flex freely in order to work correctly. Airless tires continue to cause a slew of issues, particularly when driven at high speeds. Increased heat, vibrations, and noise have been identified by developers as potentially more unpleasant than any possible puncture. If the side walls aren’t sealed off, the distinctive spoked design might create an issue.
The Uptis is a functional prototype that will be tested on select Chevy Bolt vehicles in Michigan this year. The two companies want to get the Uptis on a commercially available car by 2024.
If you liked reading about this, you’d also love to read about The New Genesis GV60 EV That Can Be Charged Without A Plug