What if you could use a tire that won’t go flat no matter how many sharp nails you may step onto, and no matter how much off-road beating on rocky roads it may receive? Michelin aspires to bring us a tire that can’t be punctured and promises to deliver the relevant product by 2024. Sharing the same vision, General Motors is closely collaborating with the French tire manufacturer, helping them test the prototypes using their Chevrolet Bolt electric car.
Following quite a few years of experimenting with tubeless tires for lunar missions, Michelin has finally reached to a point where they can build composite rubber around high-strength resin-embedded fiberglass that combines the two into a single rim/wheel that is semi-flexible. The whole idea is to build a rigid center and then connect the outer rim with flexible rubber spokes that allow the tire to flex, absorbing the abnormalities of the road surface.
The main advantage of this design is obviously the fact that it can’t go flat, as there’s no pressurized air supporting the tire structure, but the materials themselves. Other advantages touted by Michelin in regards to these tires include a more environment-friendly process of manufacturing as they require less energy and material to produce. Finally, since these tires cannot go flat, cars that are using them don’t need to be equipped with a spare tire, and this means even more energy conservation and much less emission of pollutants from the vehicles.
The questions that remain have to do with how well the skeleton of these tires handles vertical loads, what are the traction levels on wet road surfaces, and what is the expected life of an airless tire before the tiny spokes are irreversibly damaged by material fatigue. Chevrolet is planning to run extensive tests to provide a reliable answer to these questions, starting from this year.
Image Credit: Michelin