Police want airless tires so they can’t be shot out

Airless tires aren’t ready for production cars, but European police are eyeing them because they can’t be shot out during car chases, a Michelin executive said in a recent interview with The Drive.

“The police of some European countries visited us and said, ‘Guys, we want this under our cars, because when we have to rush after the bad guys, usually they put a bullet in our tires before they go. So, we need it,'” Michelin senior vice president Bruno de Feraudy said in the interview, adding that Michelin had tested its Uptis airless tire at speeds up to 130 mph on police vehicles on its own track.

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

Police cars aren’t the only potential application. In the same article, Michelin CEO Florent Menegaux is quoted as saying autonomous vehicles might be a good fit as well, again because they aren’t prone to punctures like conventional pneumatic tires. That means passengers won’t have to get out of a vehicle they’re not even driving to change a tire.

Michelin first showed the prototype Uptis, short for Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, on a Chevrolet Bolt EV in 2019. At the time, General Motors said it would test the Uptis tires on a fleet of Bolt EVs, with a view toward making them available on production vehicles as early as 2024.

Michelin Uptis prototype tire, on Chevrolet Bolt EV

Michelin Uptis prototype tire, on Chevrolet Bolt EV

In the interview, Menegaux said Michelin has also been in talks with Tesla about testing the Uptis tires, but neither executive would confirm that the 2024 launch date discussed by GM is still valid. While Michelin launched an airless tire for UTVs in 2018, and showed a version for lawnmowers and skid-steer loaders before that, it’s unclear when, if ever, you’ll be able to use them on your car. Menegaux noted that airless tires will likely always be limited to specific applications, and won’t replace conventional tires.

Other tire manufacturers, including Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Hankook, have shown prototype or concept airless tires over the years as well.

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