Hankook’s recent testing of airless tyres proved to be successful. The company was developing a non-pneumatic type tyre since 2011. Hankook’s spokesman said that this ‘iFlex’ tyre was tested fitted to an electric car that was driven in a zig-zag manner at a speed of 130 kmph.
Polyurethane synthetics was used in manufacturing the ‘iFlex’ to reduce energy consumption and curb the use of hazardous chemicals.
Hankook picked up the concept of non-pneumatic tyres from Bridgestone and further developed it at its own R&D center. Conventionally, tyres and wheels are two separate units, but Hankook has combined both into a single unit, thereby making flat tyres impossible. The iFlex structure looks like beehive cells made from polyurethane synthetics. Airless tyres absorb the bumps and reduce road noise better than any currently-available tyre as it disperses the impact forces throughout the tyre.
Due to the increasing demand of environment-friendly products, iFlex is not only air-free but also recyclable up to 95 per cent. It is considerably lighter which also helps in providing enhanced fuel economy and better vehicle handling.
It is interesting to note that earlier Hankook was developing a more advanced technology with the help of researchers from University of Cincinnati. This project was named eMembrane tyre concept. Once the concept is fully developed, a tyre will be able to autonomously transform its profile by modifying internal structures according to driving conditions.
For instance, when a vehicle is traveling at high speeds, the center of tyre tread will extend to increase the contact patch and thereby raising the grip levels. When driving around city at slower speeds, the tyre will reduce the contact area. This will make the vehicle more efficient due to reduced rolling resistance.
Tyres have experienced rather slow development since mid 1800s. It would be a game changer in the tyre industry if Hankook can combine both technologies in a single product.