3 juil 23

Michelin and La Poste test the fleet benefits of airless tires

Airless tires hold a big promise for fleet managers, as they guarantee business continuity and better real-life longevity. To step up on the technology, Michelin has expanded the testing program of its Uptis tire with 40 vans from La Poste in Northern France. Can fleets soon wave punctures and related costs goodbye?

Forty vehicles of the French postal service La Poste will be fitted with Michelin’s airless Uptis tire over the next two years. Both companies want to gather data about the reduced downtime and higher efficiency of puncture-free tires and develop them further based on driver feedback.

According to Philippe Dorge, responsible for the courier subsidiary from La Poste, which deploys a total fleet of 50 000 vehicles, his company encounters “one puncture per month on a total of sixty vehicles.” But the main benefits aren’t immediately attributed to the punctures, these lie predominantly in the lower maintenance and a secured prolonged lifecycle.

Pressure negligence

In theory, Uptis doesn’t last longer than a regular and rightly pressurised tire. “But pressure is the problem, as not many drivers uphold the discipline of monthly checking these,” acknowledges Bruno de Feraudy, VP of Automotive Original Equipment at Michelin. Also, in fleets without appropriate telematics, checking tire pressures often are a driver's responsibility.  

Pressure negligence can lead to irreparable air loss defects or irregular wear. Michelin has calculated that annually 200 million scrapped tyres could be avoided by using Uptis, resulting in a strong environmental advantage.    

The tread of the Uptis is similar to a normal tire so that it can be manufactured for summer, winter or four-season applications. La Poste is testing the latter. According to Michelin, consumption is on par with a regular tire.

Not for electric vehicles

The French pilot project follows an earlier test case with DHL Singapore. Fifty vans of the South-Asian branch of the parcel delivery company are under fitment of Michelin’s pioneering tyre before the end of the year, also to help gather data from real-world conditions similar to those from La Poste.

Managing Director of DHL Express Singapore, Christopher Ong, commented that the program with Michelin supplemented their investment in sustainability, as the firm had acquired 80 vans on battery power. However, it should be noted that the Uptis tyre is currently not compatible with the torque characteristics of electric vehicles, which is higher next to more instantaneous.

Commercially available in 2030

The prospect for fleet managers to get rid of downtime from punctures whilst offloading the cumbersome check-up policy of tire pressure sounds enticing. But as for market introduction, Michelin points to patience, as it won’t arrive before the decade’s end.

A long leap, given the fact that the company today has already commercialised the airless tire Tweel for recreational buggies and professional machines in the construction sector. These are lower-speed applications. Despite the positive first comments on road holding gathered from La Poste, the specific characteristics for safety and driving dynamics of passenger cars and LCVs demand a higher and more sophisticated level of development. Further partnerships are under review. Also, in some European countries, air-filled tires are legally obliged.

Image Source: La Poste

Authored by: Piet Andries