Many tire manufacturers are pushing the limits of tire and rubber technology. In fact, there has been a push in recent years to develop an airless tire. Could airless tires be on the brink of mass production?
Hankook recently completed preliminary testing on its fifth-generation airless tire, dubbed the iFlex. The tires do not require any air pressure, instead relying on a new type of “eco-friendly material”. Geometric shapes built into the tire material provide the bounce and springiness normally provided by air pressure. But, unlike the previous iFlex, this version was designed to mount onto a traditional rim, making it compatible with current vehicles.
Hankook ran the iFlex through numerous tests to compare it to more conventional rubber, measuring durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed, at up to 80 mph. The company says the tires matched conventional tires in terms of performance.
Hankook isn’t the only company working on airless tires. Bridgestone is developing tires that use slanted resin spokes instead of a cushion of air to absorb shocks. Also a company called Resilient Technologies is working on a prototype geared towards military vehicles—tires that can withstand combat and resistant to blowouts.
Hankook wouldn’t make any predictions about when the tires might hit the market nor what pricing would be, but if the Korean manufacturer has anything to say about it, the days of flat tires might soon be over.Top