Hankook rolls out Hexonic and Aeroflex concept tires at Essen
We're suckers for good concept tires here at New Atlas, and it seems there's no shortage of ideas each year for what the future might look like where the rubber hits the road. These two Hankook concepts come to us from the Essen Motor Show, and they concentrate on autonomous comfort and racing downforce.
"This project is part of our effort to find creative and efficient solutions for mobility of the future," said Klaus Krause, Head of Hankook's European Research and Development Centre. And thus he unleashed the wacky Hexonic and Aeroflow concepts.
The Hexonic is focused on self-driving cars, so it's focused primarily on ride comfort for passengers who don't need road feedback or feel. Its tread is broken up into a series of hexagonal modules that appear to be able to split apart to create new channels for water. Each hexagon also has a Y shape in the middle that can push through the smooth surface to add extra grip.
Hankook says the Hexonic tire has no less than seven sensors in it to read, analyze and react to the road in real time, taking things like grip, temperature and the road surface into account. It feels to us like it might be more of a styling exercise than anything else.
On to the Aeroflow, then, a maximum downforce tire aimed at motorsports. It's a wide body with a fat slick tread that can separate in the middle to become much wider, and suck incoming air into a turbine impeller, which Hankook says can be "used to generate additional downforce if necessary." We're not exactly sure how that's supposed to work, but here's a closer look at the interior of the wheel.
This image seems to suggest more thought has gone into the design than the press release, but it's opaque to us. Aerodynamics in motorsport can be a strange and fragile black magic where all parts of the car work in concert to optimize the use of airflow across a swath of different performance metrics. A concept like this, assuming it's not completely off target, would only work with a car designed to take advantage of it. Thankfully, Hankook has provided us with such a car design:
Okay then! You'd probably get more downforce and less rotational and unsprung weight issues out of, say, some aerodynamic bodywork. Not to mention, the whole idea of adding downforce is to add grip. If you've got room for nice wide tires, then, you'd get much more grip just using a nice fat regular rubber tire.
A little on the "cool looking, but that's about it" side then really, and these Hankooks aren't even as cool looking as Kumho's vacuum-sucking Smashers of 2016, a concept tire of equally dubious utility and similarly outrageous looks.
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I am looking forward to having iFlex tires - the airless ones - on my small car. Since my Smart Fortwo doesn't have room for a spare and the sealant / air pump has limited use, I think the iFlex would give more peace of mind for those cars that either are too small for a spare or it comes at extra cost (even if the car comes with a spare - usually just one - it would give peace of mind to drivers who won't have to worry about a flat - especially if they are out in inclement weather or in the middle of nowhere).
I am hoping Hankook comes out with the iFlex airless tire. It would be great for small cars that don't have room for a spare.