Michelin's airless tires will take a front seat in Chevrolet's next-gen EVs

Tires as we know them may cease to exist in the next few years.
Fabienne Lang
GM and Michelin UptisMichelin

Chevrolet's next-generation Bolt electric vehicle will allegedly come with airless tires that General Motors (GM) and Michelin have been working on. The next-gen EV is set to hit the streets in the next three to five years. 

The news came directly from Alexis Garcin, president of Michelin North America in an interview with CNN Business. "We want to bring the next generation of the Chevrolet Bolt with airless tires, and it's going to happen now in the next three to five years," Garcin said.

GM has yet to confirm the name of its next-gen EV but it's no secret that GM and Michelin have been coordinating their efforts to bring airless tires to the automaker's EVs.

Airless tires

Michelin has been working on creating the best possible airless tire since 2005 and just last year the tire maker took its puncture-proof tires for a spin for the first time on an EV — the Chevrolet Bolt, no less.

The airless tires use a flexible rib system to create spring, and given there is zero air involved, the tire can't puncture easily. Minimizing tire blowouts would likely keep drivers and passengers safer, as allegedly around 78,000 accidents a year in the U.S. are caused by tire blowouts.

Naturally, challenges to airless tires arise — there's a reason why we've been using pneumatic tires for over a century. Pressurized air in tires allows us to customize our tires for specific uses: when shifting from off-road to asphalt, for instance. Being able to change the pressure in our tires helps make the ride smoother.

On top of that, vehicles are currently made with air-filled tires in mind. Major reconsiderations in engineering may need to happen if all vehicles switch to airless tires.

With all that said, changing from pneumatic tires to airless ones would have an environmentally better impact on our Earth. Disused tires are typically found in mounds in every landfill or on the side of the road, whereas airless ones are being made in a more environmentally-friendly way, with a reduction in raw materials being used to manufacture them. On top of that, as there would hopefully be fewer punctures, there would be fewer tires in landfills.

Michelin has its work cut out for it, especially as there are other competitors in the market, like South Korea's i-Flex tire.


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