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Company develops air-free car tires that will never go flat

Published Jul 17th, 2015 8:30AM EDT
Hankook Tires

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For as far as automotive technology has advanced in just the past decade alone, the frustration of dealing with a flat tire remains a problem that affects everyone. So while we now have cars that can switch lanes and parallel park all by themselves, we still haven’t stumbled upon a solution to eliminate flat tires.

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Coming to the rescue is Hankook Tire, a company which already manufactures tires both for day-to-day driving and performance vehicles. While traditional tires are simply comprised of rubber and air, Hankook, a company based out of South Korea, has been busy testing a new prototype tire dubbed iFlex that doesn’t require any air at all, thus eliminating the threat of getting a flat altogether.

Wired reports:

Now, Hankook has completed initial testing on its fifth-generation airless tire, dubbed the iFlex. The tires do not require any air pressure, instead relying on a new type of eco-friendly material (the company demurs when asked for details). Geometric shapes built into the material provide the bounce and springiness normally provided by air pressure. But, unlike the previous iFlex, this version’s designed to mount onto a traditional rim, making it compatible with current vehicles.

In a variety of performance tests conducted at speeds up to 80 mph, Hankook said that its iFlex tires perform just as well as conventional tires. While Hankook hasn’t yet provided a roadmap detailing when their tires might hit the market, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Hankook’s full press release follows below:

Hankook Tire’s Future-oriented Tire Succeeds High-speed Driving without Air Pressure

• Hankook Tire aims to create future driving experiences through proven technology leadership propelled by continuous R&D investments

July 13, 2015 (Seoul, Korea) – Hankook Tire announced that it had successfully completed its ride and handling tests for its latest non-pneumatic tire (NPT) Hankook iFlex, which is made using eco-friendly materials.

The iFlex is the latest example of Hankook Tire’s continued technology leadership. The company’s ability to push the boundaries of driving capabilities is a direct result of its robust foundation in R&D as well as the following world-class technological prowess.

As the name suggests, NPTs do not require air pressure. Hankook Tire has continued researching on the new tire technologies particularly for NPT since 2011. Crucially, the company has been working toward the development of NPTs that achieve all of the practical benefits of conventional air pressure tires while simultaneously enhancing their high speed tire characteristics. The iFlex, which is the fifth NPT concept tire that Hankook Tire has released, is the culmination of that effort.

The company put the iFlex through a serious of rigorous tests designed to push the tires to their limits in five categories: durability, hardness, stability, slalom (zigzag) and speed. In the speed test, the electric car equipped with iFlex tires reached 130km/h. The impressive results in all five categories demonstrated that the NPTs could match conventional tires in terms of performance. At the same time, these results are expected to help the company solidify its position as a global top-tier tire company and, give new momentum to its future-oriented R&D capabilities.

Construction of the iFlex is centered on a new type of uni-material designed to maximize the tire’s eco-friendly potential. From a manufacturing standpoint, the material used during product construction significantly enhances the energy efficiency. From a product standpoint, the material allows the iFlex to be recycled with greater ease. Hankook Tire then went one step further, integrating new tire construction techniques to simplify the manufacturing process from eight stages to just four, thus further reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

“The Hankook iFlex’s ability to deliver the perfect high-speed driving performance is the result of Hankook Tire’s longstanding commitment to independently developing progressive, innovative tire technology. Aiming to strengthen our technological leadership in the global tire market, we will continue to develop cutting edge eco-friendly and future-oriented tires” says Mr. Seung-Hwa Suh, Vice Chairman and CEO of Hankook Tire.

Hankook Tire currently has a number of projects underway that are centered on developing future-oriented tire products. For example, ‘The Next Driving Lab,’ a brand campaign that was initiated in 2013, is operated primarily to let talented engineers and designers bring to life their wildest futuristic dreams for innovative driving experiences. Likewise, Hankook Tire collaborates every two years with world-renowned design schools to host the ‘Design Innovation’ project. This project allows students to propose and study future tire concepts designed at generating safer, more reliable, and more advanced tire performances.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.