South Korea-based tyre giant Hankook Tire is focused on more sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility and has been working on non-pneumatic tyre designs since 2010. The company has recently unveiled a new airless tyre concept at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
The futuristic i-Flex tyre was presented at CES with Hyundai’s modular Plug & Drive platform in cooperation with the Hyundai Motor Company. The tyre design offers “excellent shock absorption and load-bearing capacity” thanks to its biomimetic design while its airlessness increases safety and reduces maintenance costs, making it optimal for autonomous vehicle concepts. What’s more, the tread of the tyre is specifically designed for multidirectional vehicle movement and blends with the characteristic honeycomb design of the tyre concept. And much like the other non-pneumatic tyre concepts, there’s no chance of a flat tyre and it is more appealing to the eye than traditional tires.
In order to absorb road bumps and other imperfections and for them to carry heavy loads while providing stability, the i-Flex concept tyres feature multi-layer interlocking spokes that are inspired by the cellular structure of living organisms. Hankook’s press release states: “The multi-layer interlocking spoke structures the cell in three dimensions for better shock absorption while allowing hexagonal and tetragonal cell structures of different rigidities to join together for more stable load support.”
The tyre concept was developed as part of Hyundai’s little modular Plug & Drive pod car. As a result, the concept tyre has a 10 inch (25 cm) format with a diameter of 15 inches (38 cm) and a width of 4 inches (10 cm) for the time being. While the company is not ready for a rollout yet, Hankook said that it will continue designing more airless tyre concepts that are inspired by the i-Flex in hopes of mass production.
Airless tyres might be the future for autonomous mobility. With Michelin set to put its airless tyres in production by 2024 and Goodyear testing its version on autonomous robots, will South Korea’s tyre giant be able to step up its game and catch the wave?