South Korea's New Airless Tires Offer 'Excellent Shock Absorption'

Michelin might just have a rival.
Irmak Bayrakdar
The i-Flex tire concept.1, 2 

After Michelin's airless tires made their impact on the industry, others have decided to join in on the airless tire revolution.

South Korea-based tire giant Hankook Tire is focused on more sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility and has been working on non-pneumatic tire designs since 2010. The company has recently unveiled a new airless tire concept at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

A brand new airless tire design

The futuristic i-Flex tire was presented at CES with Hyundai's modular Plug & Drive platform in cooperation with the Hyundai Motor Company. The tire 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 tire is specifically designed for multidirectional vehicle movement and blends with the characteristic honeycomb design of the tire concept. And much like the other non-pneumatic tire concepts, there's no chance of a flat tire 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 tires 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."

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The tire concept was developed as part of Hyundai's little modular Plug & Drive pod car. As a result, the concept tire 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 tire concepts that are inspired by the i-Flex in hopes of mass production. 

Airless tires might be the future for autonomous mobility. With Michelin set to put its airless tires in production by 2024 and Goodyear testing its version on autonomous robots, will South Korea's tire giant be able to step up its game and catch the wave?  

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