SEOUL, South Korea — Korean carmakers Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp. are floating an integrated tire/wheel design concept that could be construed as an "on-demand" snow-chain deployment.
The design concept takes advantage of the physical characteristics of shape-memory alloys — their ability to return to their original shape when an electric current is applied — by proposing to integrate a series of wires into radial grooves in the tire.
These wires, which are attached to the wheel, would protrude beyond the tire's surface when activated by an electrical signal and act like a snow chain to provide traction in snow or on ice, the carmakers said.
"This innovation, which will hopefully be introduced on Hyundai and Kia vehicles someday, reflects our commitment to turning advanced technologies into real-world solutions that benefit customers," Joon Mo Park, head of the Advanced Chassis Development Team, at Hyundai-Kia.
"We will continue to develop technologies that enhance safety and convenience of our vehicles and bring value to our customers."
On the surface, the design concept would require an integrated tire-wheel system — something that has been accomplished successfully in only a handful of occasions in the 135 years of pneumatic-tire history — and a dedicated tire design that would fit only this specific application.
The Korean car makers created a video of how the proposed design would work, although the video does not provide any insights into how the tire and wheel would be assembled and/or serviced. The carmakers also do not describe what happens when the tire tread wears down and the tire component needs replacing.
During normal driving, the shape-memory alloy hoops that are attached to the wheel are compressed into the shape of the letter "L" and do not contact the road surface. When the driver activates the function, an electric current is applied through the wheel, causing the alloy to revert to its original profile, forming a "J" shape, pushing the hoop out of the tire to make contact with the surface, theoretically improving grip, stability and safety on snowy roads.