Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Corporation have introduced an innovative tire technology designed to enhance safety during winter driving. The system incorporates snow chain-integrated tires, utilizing shape memory alloy modules within the wheel and tire. When activated by an electrical signal, these modules extend to function as snow chains.
In contrast to conventional snow chains that can be cumbersome to install and remove, this technology enables automatic deployment of the shape memory alloy snow chains at the push of a button. This feature aims to increase safety in snowy conditions.
“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,” said Joon Mo Park, head of Hyundai’s advanced chassis development team. “We will continue to develop technologies that enhance the safety and convenience of our vehicles and bring value to our customers.”
The snow chain-integrated tire technology consists of a wheel and tire assembly that features radial grooves at regular intervals, like a pizza, with modules made of shape memory alloy inserted into these channels.
The technology utilizes the shape memory alloy’s property of returning to its original shape when subjected to an electric current. In typical driving conditions, the shape memory alloy, situated inside the wheel, remains compressed in an ‘L’ shape without contacting the road surface. Upon activation by the driver, an electric current is applied, prompting the shape memory alloy to revert to its original ‘J’ shape. This action pushes the module out of the tire, establishing contact with the road surface and enhancing grip, stability and safety on snowy roads.
If the tire’s surface wears down to the height of the module during regular driving, indicating significant tire wear, drivers can easily notice this degradation and be alerted to the need for tire replacement.
The tech is currently under patent review in South Korea and the US and Hyundai Motor and Kia are considering the potential mass production of these tires following additional technological development, durability and performance testing and regulatory evaluations.
Click here to view a demonstration video on the Hyundai Motor Group YouTube channel.
For more on snow tires, click here.