Uptis - unique punctureproof tire system - is based on the fundamentals of Michelin's Tweel tire/wheel product, introduced at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, according to Eric Vinesse, Michelin executive vice president, R&D.
Like the Tweel, the Uptis uses resin-reinforced fiberglass spokes as load-bearing elements.
The wheel hub is integrated and the rubber tread is moulded onto the circular platform that attaches to the end of the spokes.
"Uptis represents progress toward Michelin's vision for tomorrow's mobility," Vinesse said, "and also embodies our commitment to a better, sustainable mobility for all."
Michelin and GM have entered into a joint research agreement under which the companies intend to further develop and validate the Uptis prototype with the goal of introducing Uptis on passenger models as early as 2024.
The firms have been testing the prototype on vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and disclosed that they intend to initiate real-world testing of Uptis on a test fleet of Bolt EV vehicles in Michigan.
"General Motors is excited about the possibilities that Uptis presents, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Michelin on this breakthrough technology," Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president, global purchasing and supply chain, said.
Uptis, he said, is “an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future”.
From GM's perspective, Uptis represents a maintenance-free product that offers the prospect of essentially no tire/wheel-related breakdowns.
Kiefer said GM would likely introduce the product on a limited basis, targeting electric vehicles and fleets, which also could lead to development work on autonomous vehicles.
Eventually, though, GM foresees airless tire/wheel composites as compatible with its full range of passenger vehicles, Kiefer said, declining to comment on the extent of GM's exclusivity with Michelin on this product.
According to Michelin, the airless aspect of the Uptis means drivers of passenger vehicles feel safer on the road and operators of passenger vehicle fleets will minimise downtime and improve efficiency.
In addition, society at large should see benefits from "extraordinary" environmental savings through reduced use of raw materials for replacement tire or spare tire production.
Vinesse said the Uptis tire/wheel assembly weighs about 5% more than a comparable pneumatic tire/wheel assembly, but using an airless tire/wheel product eliminates the need for a spare, resulting in a net weight improvement.
Michelin claims the Uptis prototype represents a major advancement toward achieving its Vision Concept, which debuted at the 2017 Movin'On Summit.
The Vision Concept introduced four key pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3D-printed and 100% sustainable – entirely renewable or biosourced materials.
"Uptis demonstrates that Michelin's vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream," Michelin Group CEO Florent Menegaux said.
"Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today."
According to Michelin, an airless tire/wheel product like Uptis could lead to a resurgence in retreading of consumer tires, although retreading in this sense likely would involve 3D printing of new treads.