Changing a flat tire on the side of the road, for example at night, is not the most pleasant thing in the world. Not to mention the fact that in many recently produced cars, instead of the spare wheel, you get a repair kit, which very often (for example if the tire breaks on one side) turns out to be useless. Therefore, tire manufacturers including Michelin e Goodyear have long been working on a new type of rubber that does not need to be inflated. Hankook has just joined this group with its i-Flex model.
At CES the conceptual model of the “non-pneumatic tire” has been presented for now, in a fairly non-standard size: 15.7 inches (400 mm) in diameter and 4.1 inches (105 mm) in width. These measures are by no means random: Hankook has in fact presented its i-Flex tires by mounting them on the modular platforms roboticche L7 at Hyundai, also on display at CES.
Hankook i-Flex, robots today, cars tomorrow?
The i-Flex tire was developed on the basis of research e test biomimetici in order to maximize both shock absorption and load capacity. The result of this work is a spoke structure, modeled on the cellular structure of living organisms, which provides the tire with adequate rigidity. These hexagonal cells, which make up the structure, are characterized by a different degree of rigidity, thanks to which the tire is adequately both rigid and flexible.
As for the tread profile, in this particular size presented at CES, it was designed for the L7 platform, which was created to be able to change direction quickly. Therefore, the concave C-shaped tread ensures maximum contact with the road.
Hankook points out that these types of tires require little maintenance without the need to monitor air pressure, making them ideal for autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, so far the manufacturer has not revealed any information on when the i-Flex tires will appear on the market. What is certain is that Hankook “is continuing research and development to make further improvements”. And this perhaps means that one day the airless tire will also be available for cars.