Automotive

Hankook's high-speed tests inch airless tires closer to production

Hankook's high-speed tests inc...
Hankook's iFlex recently passed a series of tests for durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed
Hankook's iFlex recently passed a series of tests for durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed
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Hankook's iFlex recently passed a series of tests for durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed
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Hankook's iFlex recently passed a series of tests for durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed

Airless tires are one step closer to becoming a production reality, after Hankook successfully put its iFlex tire through a series of high speed tests. The iFlex is Hankook's fifth attempt at non-pneumatic tires, and brings with it a number of environmental benefits compared to conventional tires.

As you might have guessed from the name, non-pneumatic tires don't require any air. Instead, Hankook's iFlex eschews conventional construction for a material that the company says is energy-efficient to manufacture and easy to recycle. The material also has allowed Hankook to halve the number of steps involved in manufacturing.

In testing, the iFlex was put through its paces in five different categories: durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed. The electric car Hankook used hit 130 km/h (81 mph) without damaging the tire, and the iFlex was able to match the performance of a conventional pneumatic tire in all the other tests – although further details about the results have not been revealed.

Hankook isn't the only company testing airless tires. Michelin has opened a North American plant dedicated to production of the Tweel, and Bridgestone has been testing its recyclable, puncture-proof tires on Japanese single person vehicles that are usually used by the elderly.

Although still in the testing phase, the airless tire has huge potential in production cars. They don't puncture, and depending on the materials used they also have the potential to significantly cut down on the emissions involved in the production and recycling of tires.

Source: Hankook

28 comments
Nairda
"durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed".......NOISE???
Rumata
I don't see any huge potential for airless tires in production cars. Puncturelessness can be a great advantage for off-road vehicles, but not a critical selection criteria for on-road cars. The problem is that these airless tires have much higher rolling resistance than inflated tire. So, instead of reducing CO2 emissions, they would horribly increase it. Sorry guys: these airless tires are only for off-road vehicles.
danmar
These look primed for 3D printing. Eventually people will be able to make almost everything they need at home. I'll probably be dead by then but that's the future....
Steve Jones
These have good potential in low-cost, low-maintenance areas like scooters and children's toys.
windykites
I can imagine that if these tiles are used for off-road activities, then they are going to get seriously full of mud, and would need to be hosed out after use. I would think that an outer skin would be a useful addition. The main question is, will they be more expensive than pneumatic tyres? The best use would be for military vehicles, where the tyres could not be shot out and deflated. Cost would not be a factor. I do find the article a bit short on information, and also there are some trite remarks: They don't puncture; they don't require any air.
martinkopplow
Nairda: Why bother about noise? They are going to make noise generators mandatory for electric cars anyway (which bothers me, because I think it's stupid!) so a little extra noise would only add SAFETY, at least when thinking along these lines ...
hdm
so many naysayers...lol. i'll take a set, for on road, without ever having to adjust inflation levels i'm pretty confident i'll do better than those espousing air filled tires having less rolling resistance. majority of drivers never check their tire pressure. As for off road mudder types? Do what you have to do to have fun i guess.
bullrun
WAAAAAAAAY too many issues. The flexibility changes too much with temperature (super stiff when cold and super mushy when hot), stuff getting stuck in the gaps. Crap being flung out of the gaps at 70 mph....many, many more. Good concept but I just don't see it happening.
Noel K Frothingham
Naidra, the article clearly stated that the design was still in testing stage and that "...further details about the results have not been revealed." Why do you expect a writer to reveal what they do not know?
VirtualGathis
@DaniTuri - "The problem is that these airless tires have much higher rolling resistance than inflated tire." Do you have a reference for that. That is the first time I've seen that stated. I've been following the Tweel concept since it came out more than a decade ago, and none of the data I've seen mentioned an increased rolling resistance. A couple of the companies trying to market airless tires mentioned they could tune the ride by changing the polymer of the "spokes" or similar. If they can tune the stiffness of the support structure they can modify the rolling resistance. BTW there are already some off road application of airless tires in production: http://gizmodo.com/john-deeres-new-ride-on-mower-is-one-of-the-first-to-ha-1682048716