Are Airless Car Tires a Good Idea?

Michelin plans to release its airless tire in 2024 but are airless tires a good idea?

When Michelin announced in June that it had developed an airless tire more than a few eyebrows raised. It’s still a ways away from appearing on vehicles, Michelin anticipates a release date of 2024 for the tire, which is based on the “Tweel” it launched in 2005.

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The tire is called the “Uptis” which stands for Unique Puncture-proof Tire System and Michelin is testing the tire on Chevrolet Bolt EVs. As an airless tire, the Uptis doesn’t require regular maintenance and drivers won’t have to worry about flat tires. Uptis tires won’t even need to be rotated, Michelin claims.

The tire, which is 100 percent sustainable and 3-D printed, sits on an aluminum wheel.

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But are airless car tires a good idea? On first glance it sounds great, since around 12 percent of tires are lost annually due to blowout issues, Michelin reports. Another 8 percent are lost due to inflation issues that produce irregular wear. The Uptis also eliminate the need for a spare tire and they weigh about the same as a regular tire.

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Bridgestone has also worked on developing an airless tire but reports that there are issues of debris getting caught in the spokes and difficulties in distributing weight properly.Mud, sand and snow can clog up the spokes and knock the balance of the tire off, as well. The spokes can get damaged as well. Airless tires also get hotter than conventional tires and that poses a danger because it could mean blowouts.

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Another drawback is cost. A Tweel will run from $239 for a zero turn mower to $750 for a UTV.

As Michelin developed the Tweel, early reports noted noise and vibration issues at high speeds. As it stands now, the Tweel has been mostly limited to use on skid steers, golf carts and riding lawnmowers.

Find out how to properly inflate your car tires to prevent irregular wear in the video below.