Anyone with a few years motoring experience under their belt will know all about the misery of the flat car tyre. Although punctures and the like are not as frequent as they once were, they are still a feature of driving today, especially if tyres have been neglected. A soft tyre with insufficient pressure is more likely to puncture, for example. Apparently, some 200 million tyres worldwide are scrapped prematurely every year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that causes uneven wear. Aside from the unnecessary cost to car owners it is also something of a blight on the planet. Not all old tyres get recycled.
At The Worse Time
It is a fact of life that car tyres puncture or otherwise deflate at the most irksome and inconvenient times. When tyres puncture it seems like that always heralds rain and scrambling around on the ground to change a wheel in the wet on the side of a busy highway is a sure way to dampen anyone’s spirits. Some cars in our modern world carry space-saver ‘get-you-home’ wheels and many now just have tyre inflation kits, which, although not especially popular with motorists, do at least save weight, which is a bonus when it comes to fuel economy.
It goes with saying that punctures can be extremely dangerous, especially if a tyre blows out at high speed on a motorway. For decades carmakers have sought various solutions and, over time, those rubber circles have become much more reliable thanks to new materials and high-technology manufacturing methods. Now new hope is almost at hand.
The Puncture-Proof Tyre
Both Michelin and General Motors are testing an airless wheel technology for passenger vehicles called the Uptis Prototype ‘Unique Puncture-proof Tire System’. Note the US spelling. The developers revealed this new and exciting advance to road safety at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility in Montreal, Canada.
Airless tyre technology reduces, we learn, the need for environmentally harmful tyre production, and eliminates the need for a spare that adds weight with its adverse effect on fuel economy. Looking further ahead, they would also help autonomous vehicles drive around the clock without fear that a stray nail will ruin a trip.
The companies will begin testing a prototype airless tyre on a fleet of USA-based Chevrolet Volt electric cars and testing begins later this year with a view to commercial marketing by 2024. It seems to make sense to develop them on EV’s which look like being our automotive future. The tyre does not need to be inflated and is said to be self-supporting and produce the ride and handling of a standard pneumatic tyre. Being airless, it is thus immune from punctures and thus eliminates the risk of flats and blowouts that result from punctures or road hazards, like potholes.
The CEO of the Michelin group is quoted as saying, “Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream. Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today.”
Further, a General Motors spokesperson added, “General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology. Uptis is an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future and a great example of how our customers benefit when we collaborate and innovate with our supplier partners.”
So It’s All Good Then
As seen in our image, they are perhaps not as attractive as regular rubber but no doubt that is something we’ll learn to live with, assuming the look of airless tyres remains the same. Also, there will be all those research and development costs to recuperate so it seems unlikely that when they do come to market, they won’t be cheap. Over time though, prices should come down. Initially too, they may not suit all current models, particularly as to how they will work at speed. All this will no doubt be revealed over time.
In the meantime, we’ll carry on with the tyres we know. Fortunately, most brands provide high-tech rubber with excellent handling and water-dispersing qualities. Our customers will be pleased to know that our used cars
are never released with substandard tyres and all are thoroughly checked as part of our AA-inspections
. We also offer a full fourteen-day ‘test drive
’ to ensure satisfaction.