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Hankook Tires has released information about a revolutionary new tire. The South Korean company has developed a tire that does not need air. Flat tires on the highway can be dangerous, however, the Hankook tire prototype could make tow truck drivers obsolete by reducing the chance of having a flat tire in traffic.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), statistics gathered between 1995 and 1998 showed an annual average of 23,464 tow-away accidents caused by flat tires. The NHTSA estimates there were 10,275 non-fatal injuries and approximately 414 deaths attributed to flat tires when the speeds were 55 mph or greater.
On the tire company’s website, they boast of proactive leadership to include four characteristics. They are passionate about their goals, they build trust through collaboration, and they create possibilities by being innovative. The fourth is the company’s open mindset due to their cultural diversity. Creating new and innovative products are an example of these traits.
The tire prototype uses products that are recycled more easily than traditional tires. The increased recyclability comes from the “uni-material” design the company says “significantly enhances the energy efficiency.” Hankook touts the tire as safer and better for the environment. These tires will also reduce the amount of fuel used by a vehicle, due to the lighter weight of the tire.
Hankook Tire’s prototype is called the iFLEX, and it is non-pneumatic, meaning that it is nothing filled with air. Because it does not need air, the iFLEX increases safety by eliminating the problem of tire punctures and reducing flat-tire incidents. As a result, the Hankook tire could make tow truck drivers obsolete by significantly decreasing flat-tire calls and flat tire-related traffic accidents.
This prototype is Hankook’s fifth attempt to create an airless tire. The goal is to create an airless tire that provides the same feel of an air-filled tire. The newest model is also designed to fit existing rims, so customers have no need to spend additional money for specialized rims. By creating tires that fit regular rims, Hankook will have a greater consumer base when and if this prototype is released.
This tire will not be the first non-pneumatic tire on the market. Michelin Tires introduced an airless tire in 2005, however, it is for use on agricultural equipment. Polaris, a “manufacturer of snowmobiles, ATV, and neighborhood electric vehicles,” has been offering an ATV with airless tires since 2013. The Britek tire company released a tire for bicycles under the name, “Energy Return Wheel.” Britek also manufactures non-pneumatic tires for the military.
Hankook Tires is not the only company currently working on prototypes of airless tires for automobiles. Bridgestone debuted their second-generation Air Free tire in fall of 2014. The tire’s outside is “coated with replaceable tread made of a thin band of solid rubber.” The sides of both manufacturer’s tires appear to have a series of rubber sections with open areas. The detail in the rubber allows for the bounce and stability that consumers expect in their tires.
High-speed testing on the iFLEX was completed earlier this month, according to a press release from Hankook Tires. The company outfitted an electric car with the tires and reached speeds of 130 km/h, or about 81 mph. Tests in five other categories were also done – durability, stability, speed, hardiness, and slalom (which is zigzag driving).
There is no information on a potential release date of the tires, nor is there any price-point information available to date. However, the iFLEX, Hankook’s prototype, could make tow truck drivers obsolete when the tires are available and on the road.
By Cathy Milne
Edited by Jennifer Pfalz
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: III.TARGET POPULATION Safety Problems Associated With Tires
Hankook Tire: Hankook Tire’s Future-oriented Tire Succeeds High-speed Driving without Air Pressure
Hankook Tire: Provocative Leadership
c/net: Out with the air: Bridgestone shows off tires you never have to inflate
IEEE SPECTRUM: Airless Tires Roll Towards Consumer Vehicles
Article/Featured Photo Courtesy of The Bees’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Photo Courtesy of Greg Gjerdingen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License