Wonderful Engineering

Morphing Tyre Changes Shape According to Driving Conditions

Tires have seen major upgrades in recent years with many different kinds of materials and groove profiles being used. But, no matter how much engineers try, there just cannot be a universal tire with same grooves for every kind of driving conditions. Smooth ones get slippery in snow and rain while rougher ones with protruding grooves get worn down easily. One type of tire profile can never be universally applicable for all surfaces. Period. But what if we had a tire that could change its appearance according to the road condition? Enter Kumho’s Maxplo.

It recently bagged the top prize in the futuristic class in Italian Design A awards. Kumho took the airless tire concept design and took it to a whole new level. It can alternate between different surface conditions, and the company claims it can run on everything, from snow covered roads to extreme bumpy ones.

To prevent hydroplaning on wet roads, the tire sprouts three-dimensional groves that increase the friction and remove the water layer causing the slippery movement. The groves aren’t placed randomly placed as the computer simulations take notice of different patterns and select the best arrangement for a particular condition.

When the smoother patch presents itself, the sizable intersectional parts that make up the surface of the tire ease away and the groves disappear. It broadens the tire’s imprint and increases traction. For tougher terrain involving blankets of snow and ice, hidden spikes have been installed. When the situation presents itself, they deploy and provide a firm support to the ground to prevent deadly slipping. In normal mode, the spikes remain hidden inside the tires.

The tires are 9.8 inches wide, and they weigh twelve kilograms. To test the tire, the inventors made a specially designed electric hub motor powered from a Hydrogen fuel cell and simulated its movement. The results are pretty encouraging, but this tire won’t be hitting the roads in the near future as more research is needed, and it is damn expensive too. But don’t give up hope as the different individual features like hidden spikes could find their way to the main production lines shortly! I would need those for winter safaris!