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Everything you need to know about the airless tires Michelin unveiled

Everything you need to know about the airless tires Michelin unveiled

The revolution arrived via the postman’s truck: Michelin has been testing its run-flat tires on Post Office trucks since Tuesday, a prelude to commercialization that could take a long time.

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For the first time in Europe, up to forty yellow vans will test these run-flat tires over two years, making them virtually indestructible thanks to their design. A similar test was launched with DHL in January in Singapore.

The first three Citroëns fitted with Uptis tires were installed on Tuesday in front of the Roost-Warendin sorting center, near Douai (northern France).

The aluminum wheel and rubber tread remain fairly classic, but slide 64 black, curved “fins” between them.

France Press agency

Made from a mixture of fiberglass filaments and resin, these fins should perform with air pressure in terms of comfort, heat resistance, and impact resistance. The idea is also that by avoiding under-inflation, these tires last longer.

The method of assembly of these fins, such as the characteristics of the webbing that affixes them to the tread, remain a well-kept secret.

Michelin wants to inspire motorists who have had the misfortune of puncturing or driving with poorly inflated tyres, but also to offer a puncture-proof tire solution, on subscription, for delivery fleets.

France Press agency

“It’s good for safety, the environment and our performance,” said Philippe Dorgy, deputy general manager of La Poste.

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“It doesn’t change anything, the feelings are a little better,” testifies Thomas Thant, who delivers parcels near Lille. “We no longer worry about punctures or pressure,” he assures, and these tires are no more noisy than others.

The first prototypes assembled by La Poste were made in a few thousand copies by Michelin at its Grenville factory. This American manufacturer actually makes the Tweel, a airless tire launched in 2004 for off-road and low-speed use, for either large lawn mowers or recreational vehicles.

Bibendum isn’t the only one who wants to reinvent the wheel. In May 2022, Goodyear introduced its version of the run-flat tire, after conducting a press test of a “NexTrek”-equipped Tesla.

The US manufacturer also wants to test it on delivery vehicles, particularly self-driving ones, and aims for mass production by 2030.

The American company Smart Tire is betting on a memory metal shape developed by NASA for its Mars exploration vehicle. Smart Tire is working with Korean manufacturer Hyundai, but first plans to release a puncture-proof bike tire, which will sell for about $150 from the end of 2023.

Michelin also targets 2030 to start marketing, and also wants this tire to be more environmentally friendly and interconnected.

“There is a lot of progress to be made,” says Bruno de Feraudi, who runs the French manufacturer’s new line of car tires.

France Press agency

“You learn a lot by having them ride with fleets. We’ll continue to work on rolling resistance, retreading,” that is, replacing the road contact rubber band, explains Mr. Di Ferrode.

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The Uptis performs the same as an “all-season” Michelin tire, in terms of braking and rolling resistance, the manufacturer assures. Testing with La Poste, and then with other customers, will allow them to be tested over millions of kilometres.

But then it will be necessary to approve and produce these tires in the hundreds of available sizes and above all to prepare the garages for their maintenance.

The police and army could be among the first customers of these puncture-resistant tires: the French police have already tested them at high speed, and Michelin breathes, just as the soldiers have already tested the Tweel.

France Press agency