Isn’t innovation great?
You need good tires on your car, of course. But the waste that they represent is a daunting problem. Hundreds of millions of pounds of rubber and steel-reinforced tires are tossed into land fills each year; more millions are shredded and reused, but the process can be dirty and cumbersome. The quest for a solution has been the holy grail of the industry, one that tire makers have sought individually and as an industry.
And one that Michelin put at the heart of its business a few years ago.
Imagine a World Where Tires Are Part of the Solution, Not the Problem
That’s what Michelin thought, too. So three years ago the company introduced the Visionary Concept tire, a dream of a tire that is completely recyclable, airless, digitally connected to the car and to the information grid, and resilient to the challenges of the road.
Fast forward a couple of years and it’s here. At the Movin’ On Conference the company revealed the Michelin Uptis —which stands for Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System— designed to broach the challenges that our cars face today and will in the future.
So think about it: If you were designing a tire, you’d want one that never gets a flat.
You’d want one that can last for many years.
You’d want it to absorb potholes, tackle a gravel road and stick to slippery surfaces.
You’d want it to be able to tell the city where the potholes are, to tell your car when your suspension is out of line and to tell you how many more miles you can drive before it needs a bit of maintenance.
And you’d want a tire that is not a scourge to landfills.
It seems as if General Motors had the same wish list; the brand signed on as Michelin’s partner and committed to putting the Uptis tire on all General Motors when it’s available in 2024.
The goal is to make these tires as good as today’s run flat tires. Now THAT is a mission we can get behind. We love run flat tires.
The Most Novel Michelin Tire Design Ever
So first of all, Uptis isn’t just a tire. It’s actually a wheel with an attached system of rubber, resin and fiberglass that supports the platform for tire’s surface. It looks and functions like conventional tires on the surface, however air flows between the supports, which are flexible so they can absorb shock from uneven pavement, gravel or potholes. The tire’s tread surface is replaceable and can be customized to the needs of the vehicle. Need deeper, more flexible tread for driving on dirt and gravel? No problem. Need a tire that can shed water? You got it. And when the tread wears out, it’s designed to be replaced on the wheel, 3D printed right on to the surface.
Michelin is not Alone … The Entire Tire Industry is Tackling This Issue
The Uptis tire resulted from Michelin’s dedication to develop new technologies, but the company is not alone. In addition to collaborating with General Motors, Michelin has developed standards and goals with the rest of the tire industry and continues to work with other automotive partners including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and more.
Which means that Uptis may seem novel and futuristic, but it’s not. The industry is thinking deeply about what they could and should do, and then, making inroads to achieve that. Isn’t innovation great?
Disclosure: I was Michelin’s guest at the Movin’ On Conference, where the Uptis tire was revealed. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.