Tire technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over my lifetime, and certainly over the last 15 years. Michelin have been trying to make Tweels a thing for as long as I can remember, and finally has GM on its side to develop a production-ready Tweel-based “Uptis” tire. Uptis gets its name as a shortening of “Unique Punctureproof Tire Sysem” but Tweel is a better name as it is a portmanteau of tire and wheel.
Not only does the Tweel mean that blowouts will be a thing of the past, punctures are no longer a worry, and you no longer have to deal with potholes destroying your sidewall, but there is a lot of potential for sports cars with lateral G-forces no longer subject to sidewall flex. You could potentially add back in a bit of the tire cushion we’ve lost in sports cars in a race for ever shorter sidewalls. Michelin could, for example, build a sporty Tweel with good vertical cushioning while maintaining lateral integrity. Oh, the possibilities!
GM and Michelin have partnered on the project with the aim of reaching production by 2024.
“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,” says Florent Menegaux, chief executive officer for Michelin Group.
“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,” offered Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, General Motors
Michelin actually aims to sell fewer tires by rolling these into production. The goal with this Uptis Tweel is to completely rid the average consumer of tire maintenance, which is frequently disregarded anyhow. Michelin claims that about 200 million tires are scrapped before they provide a full use cycle by wearing out. This happens as a result of punctures, road hazards, or improperly inflated tires causing tires to wear unevenly.
Judging by the average grocery store parking lot, most consumers don’t spend much time thinking about their tires, and will appreciate the set-it-and-forget-it convenience of Tweels. If Michelin is first to market with this tech, they could really move a lot of units before any competitors can catch up.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the idea of Tweels, and have driven a few lawn tractors and golf carts equipped with them. Obviously the weight difference between those conveyances and a car are massive, but if Michelin can perfect this tech in the next few years, I’ll be excited every time I see a Tweel on the street. The revolution is coming, and it will be blogged about.