Is this the end of the road for punctures?

The Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (UPTIS)

Endlessly worrying about whether tyres are correctly inflated, lugging along a couple of spares, trying to avoid sticks and stones on dirt roads, and keeping fingers crossed that a blowout doesn’t happen at just the wrong time.

Such is the life of the hard-travelling grey nomad.

But maybe not for too much longer!

The holy grail of puncture-proof, airless tyres for the masses has officially moved out of a boffin’s design book, and onto the wheels of a car near you.

French manufacturer Michelin has teamed up with General Motors and, after some spectacularly successful real-world tests, is to begin production of its Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (UPTIS) by 2024.

The company says that, during demonstrations, passengers couldn’t feel any difference compared with conventional tyres.

The Uptis tyre is constructed using a mix of regular rubber and a flexible, strong and light fibreglass blend, and ‘spokes’ that help it keep its shape. The structure then maintains the right ‘pressure’, which has benefits for tyre performance and wear, and for fuel economy.

Michelin says that, unlike existing airless solutions which are only suitable for low-speed professional applications, Uptis is perfectly suited to the needs of passenger cars.

Michelin’s technical and scientific communication director, Cyrille Roget, believes the Uptis technology is as revolutionary as the radial tyre was in the 1940s.

“It’s less of a burden on the consumer,” he said. “You don’t have to check the pressures, you won’t be stranded at the side of the road with a puncture, and for the car manufacturers, they don’t have to include a spare wheel, or a jack, and there’s no need to have to have tyre pressure-monitoring systems, all of which saves a lot of weight in the vehicle.”

It’s potentially great news for grey nomads and other motorists then, and they might soon no longer need to worry about the impact of road conditions on their tyres … or about getting a flat.

And there will also be fuel savings. Incorrectly inflated tyres apparently lead to countless litres of extra fuel being used needlessly each year.

And then there’s the environmental aspect. Punctures, sidewall damage and irregular, premature wear through incorrect pressures sees more than 200 million tyres wasted every year. Michelin says used Uptis tyres could one day be returned and re-treaded using 3D printing technology.

Wow!

The tyre will initially be launched in Asian countries due to the poor quality of their roads, and the damage and resultant waste of conventional tyres. No word yet on when the tyres may be available in Australia.

Watch this space!

  • Are you excited by the idea of never having a puncture again? And of never having to carry a spare? Email us here to share your thoughts.
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