Improvements to the common car tire have occurred incrementally since its inception, but over the next decade, the average rubber roller may become a thing of the past. Hankook (and other manufacturers such as Michelin and Bridgestone) are prepping next-generation tires that are airless, recyclable, and quite odd looking.
Shown at this year's International Motor Show in Frankfurt, the Hankook i-Flex radically differs from the norm by combining a tire and wheel together into a single object. The spinner doesn't need any air to roll, which means no more flats or unexpected accidents.
I think any product named "iwhatever" sounds a little platitudinous, so maybe they should call it a twheel (a mix of "tire" and "wheel") instead. Although, it seems like Michelin has the bragging rights to tweel, so maybe that's not a good idea after all.
Nonetheless, the i-Flex's polyurethane synthetic composition makes it up to 95 percent recyclable. According to Hankook, shock absorbency, fuel consumption, and riding noise all improve with this new design. At the Frankfurt auto show, Hankook demoed a 14-inch wheel size i-Flex on an ABT-tuned Volkswagen Up!, but the company stayed mum on when or if we'll ever see this next generation twheel hit the market.
In August, Hankook showed off a pretty wild concept tire -- with ritzy integrated LED lights -- called eMembrane, which could change its tread placement based on the road type and offer improved fuel efficiency.