Hankook's new tire may eliminate flats forever

Company's iFlex prototype doesn't use air

SEOUL - Recent advancements in automotive technology have made many driving-related annoyances a thing of the past.

Electric and hybrid vehicles have made getting gas a less frequent necessity; rear backup cameras have made parking lot fender benders easier to avoid; and in-car GPS technology can turn anyone into an expert navigator.

But flat tires have continued to be a source of headaches for drivers — until now.

South Korea-based Hankook Tire Co. has developed a new wheel design that could mean never having to patch a flat again. The secret? Tires that aren't filled with air.

This week, Hankook announced its non-pneumatic iFlex tire had tested successfully in a series of performance trials run by the company.

Hankook Tire's iFlex model is shown in this promotional image. (2015 / Handout)

According to a release, the iFlex was tested in five categories of tire performance: durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed. The company claimed the prototype wheels stood up to standard rubber-and-air tires across the board.

"The impressive results in all five categories demonstrated that the [non-pneumatic tires] could match conventional tires in terms of performance," the press release stated. An unidentified electric vehicle fitted with iFlex tires allegedly topped out at about 80 miles per hour. No other specific test results were announced.

Hankook officials are also keeping quiet regarding the material of which its iFlex tires are made. The company only revealed they are an "elastic polyurethane structure" constructed of "a new type of uni-material" that is "eco-friendly" to produce. The release claims the new tires were produced in four stages of production, compared to eight for its traditional wheels.

It's unclear when the iFlex design could become widely available.

In 2014, Hankook was ranked the world's seventh-largest tire manufacturer.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

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