Could punctures become a thing of the past? Is Michelin’s airless tyre really more than just a marketing stunt?
You may have seen that last year, Michelin’s airless tyre gained a lot of exposure. Basically going viral, their airless tyre design took the internet by storm with people getting very excited at the thought of never having to worry about getting a puncture or filling your tyres with air ever again.
Funnily enough, this concept is not new at all, with Michelin showing off this odd technology way back in 2005. Back then, it was called the ‘Tweel’ – assumedly a play on the words ‘tyre’ and ‘wheel’. Back then, the ‘Tweel’ didn’t gain much traction at all and this weird innovation has been dormant until recently, where once again it has made its way around the news.
In 2005, Michelin’s Tweel was a working concept, with the tyre manufacturer even offering journalists a free ride in an Audi A4 that was rocking the Tweels. Said journalists described the ride as more coarse than the experience of a car with regular tyres, but also described the steering response as sharper and large bumps were suppressed with greater success.
Since then, Michelin has had 15 years to work on their Tweel. Now it seems they’ve come out of hiding and are ready to, once again, present their innovation to the public.
One change that you’ll notice straight away is that they’re no longer calling it the ‘Tweel’, which seems like a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. Instead, it is now officially referred to as UPTIS airless technology, which stands for Unique Puncture-proof Tire System. Not quite as catchy as ‘Tweel’ but not as ridiculous either.
Their main marketing focus seems to be on advertising it as a tyre that is ‘impervious to flats and blowouts’ and as a solution that can make drivers feel safer and also make business owners improve productivity thanks to reduced downtime created by punctures.
In their short promo video which has been shared by various sites and news outlets and has collectively gained tens of millions of views, Michelin show off the tyre driving over some nails without any fuss. They’re suggesting that with this airless technology, tyres can now get punctures from nails, glass and other sharp objects and continue driving without a fuss.
Not only is this great for the driver, saving them time and money, but also reducing waste. Tyres will no longer have to be disposed of just because of a single nail, which will apparently save 2 million tons of wasted material each year. This could also be a problem for the Police, rendering their spike traps useless!
One disadvantage of this new, reinvented wheel is that the contact between the ‘tyre’ and the road surface is greater, meaning more friction, meaning greater fuel consumption. Also, we’re all wondering just how much these things will cost? Are they due to be released for sale soon, or ever?
Although it may seem like nothing more than a marketing stunt, Michelin and General Motors have gone on record to say they aim to begin introducing the UPTIS tyre to the public by 2024.
Will the UPTIS tyre make its way to our local auto centres this year, or will it go into hiding for another 15 years?
Our honest opinion: the tyre design simply has too many things wrong with it to work. The age-old saying of reinventing the wheel suggests that the wheel is an age-old invention that is perfect as it is. This new airless design has the potential to reduce fuel economy, get mud and other debris stuck inside of it, make it impossible to adjust tyre air pressure for varying load weight and many other problematic things.
Let us know your thoughts on this ‘innovation’. Is it the future of motoring or just a marketing stunt?
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