French postal vans will test Michelin airless tires

Michelin will test airless tires on French postal vans, providing more real-world experience with tire designs that could be beneficial to EVs.

La Poste, the French postal service, plans to fit Michelin Uptis airless tires to 40 delivery vans by 2024, according to a Michelin press release. Three vehicles should already be in service by the time you read this, operating on mail routes in the northern region of France.

The Uptis is one of a handful of airless-tire designs, in this case using an internal structure to hold the tire’s shape instead of internal air pressure. The release said Michelin’s main target for the Uptis is commercial light-truck fleets, particularly delivery fleets. But the company also recently confirmed that it’s tested the tire at up to 130 mph with law enforcement in mind.

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

Airless tires also aren’t susceptible to punctures, in turn eliminating the need to change flats. That could also make them ideal for autonomous vehicles operating in ride-sharing services without human drivers onboard, Michelin has suggested. In the past, Michelin has suggested EVs might be the main focus.

GM started testing this lineup on the Chevy Bolt EV back in 2019, and it hinted that it might offer the Uptis tech on a 2024 EV—although since then there’s been no further announcement. Toyota in 2017 also suggested its EVs could use airless tires, but never followed up.

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

GM, Michelin Uptis airless tire prototype

Airless tires could help EV drivers maximize range.In addition to the obvious benefit of preventing punctures, blowouts, and flats, airless tires maintain ideal rolling resistance, or close to it, for their lifetime, without the need to keep checking pressures.

Modern tire-pressure monitoring systems in vehicles have helped with the issue of maintaining optimal pressure, but it remains a hassle that some drivers ignore—and it’s especially important for EVs and driving range.

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