Skip to main content

Hankook envisions concept tires that transform on the fly (and drive on water)

At the Essen Motor Show in Germany this week, Tire manufacturer Hankook showed the world its vision of future tire technology, and it goes way beyond different tread patterns.

The vast technological innovations that go into tire development can’t be understated. They save lives, improve performance, and make treacherous conditions manageable. Ultimately, however, they haven’t changed much in concept from the time when people hauling carts around slapped a band of padding to wooden wheels centuries ago. Tires today aren’t much more than slabs of rubber wrapped around a metal hub, and that’s why companies like Hankook participate in engineering exercises to explore what’s possible beyond the simple, traditional concept.

This year, the company revealed three concepts of wheels that are capable of changing their shapes dynamically, altering their performance through rapid changes in terrain and conditions. The “Boostrac” tire is essentially a dune buggy-type wheel made up of hexagonal tread blocks that can expand, changing up the traction to plow through sand or scale a steep mountain path.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“Alpike” is the tire that can expand its circumference, making driving through snow much easier. When the tire expands, the gaps in the tread and exposed studs grip icy surfaces better, as well. Lastly, the “HyBlade” has a water-wheel-like design and pop-out fins to paddle through water like a riverboat.

Dubbed the Design Innovation project, Hankook works closely with a chosen university every two years to produce these stunning concepts. This year, Hankook teamed up with the University of Design, Engineering and Business in Pforzheim, Germany to create the concept tires, meant to reflect the brand’s research and development initiatives going forward.

Will we see any of these tires on cars soon? No. Will these, however, be something that becomes the norm within our lifetimes? Very possibly. The notion of rubber-and-air tires is constantly being challenged by new innovations, and the concept of a dynamically adaptive tire system is an in invention just waiting to be made. It’s likely that, if a company like Hankook can make this technology applicable, we may be the generation that sees the reinvention of the wheel.

Editors' Recommendations

Alexander Kalogianni
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Alex K is an automotive writer based in New York. When not at his keyboard or behind the wheel of a car, Alex spends a lot of…
There’s a huge Black Friday sale on Thule roof cargo boxes
thule rooftop cargo boxes deals amazon november 2023 box on car

It's almost winter, which means snowy day trips and skiing, and if you pack your whole family inside one vehicle, it can be difficult to get the rest of your critical belongings (such as bikes and kayaks) to your destination. In theory, you could buy a larger car. Many families get a minivan for the explicit purpose of relieving this kind of pressure. But that's pretty extreme when you could simply expand the storage space of your current car. And with Black Friday sales like this one, putting dozens of Thule rooftop cargo boxes on big discounts, now is a good time to consider doing so. We're seeing deals were you could save $100 (or even more) or Thule rooftop cargo boxes and accessories. Just tap the button below to access the curated collection, then keep reading for our take in how to shop the sale.

Why you should shop the Thule rooftop cargo box sale
One of the first things we want you to know before you shop the Thule collection is some features that aren't immediately apparent just by looking at the cargo boxes. For example, you may be highly concerned about driving off and having your belongings (including embarrassing items like underwear) go everywhere because the box flies open. Thule boxes, however, typically snap shut with an audible click. You know your items are secure. Alternatively, items like their

Read more
Honda recalls more than 300,000 vehicles over seat belt safety issue
2015 Honda Accord Sport

Honda has recalled more than 300,000 of its 2023-2024 HR-Vs and Accords over a safety issue, according to a document posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The issue concerns a missing seat belt part, which means that in the event of a crash, the belt “will not properly restrain the occupant, increasing the risk of injury,” the NHTSA said.

Read more
How to watch Tesla’s Cybertruck delivery event today
Tesla's Cybertruck.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk behind the wheel of a Cybertruck. Tesla

It’s been a long time coming, but Tesla is about to deliver the Cybertruck to its first customers.

Read more