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by Alex Gibson

Hankook Tyres has revealed its new i-Flex airless wheel-and-tyre concept at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show.

The Hankook i-Flex design concept is an all-in-one wheel-and-tyre unit designed to increase vehicle efficiency by improving a car’s energy conversion, while also being more ecologically sustainable than conventional wheels and tyres.

Air free and almost entirely constructed from recyclable polyurethane synthetic materials, Hankook says the i-Flex concept is considerably lighter than conventional wheel-and-tyre combinations. The wheel-rim unit is also claimed to offer greater shock absorbency than air-filled tyres, increasing passenger comfort while reducing fuel consumption and noise emissions.

Hankook display

Being airless, the i-Flex tyre cannot go flat, or even lose tyre pressure, ensuring a vehicle’s engine never has to work harder – and increase its fuel consumption – to compensate for lost pressure.

Airless tyres are not a new development for the industry. Michelin has previously shown its ‘Tweel’ (tyre and wheel) concept, which connects a car’s wheel hub to the tyres with flexible polyurethane spokes that absorb shocks in place of a conventional pneumatic tyres’ air, and Bridgestone unveiled its own airless concept tyre in 2011 that also made use of spokes in place of air and featured 100 per cent recyclable materials.

Attendees at the Frankfurt motor show will be able to alter the colours of the i-Flex at a ‘hands-on’ display, where the design concept will be shown on a tuned Volkswagen Up! wearing tyres measuring 155mm wide and 590mm in diameter with a central ‘simulated’ 14-inch wheel.