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Hyundai, Kia file patent for 'automatic' snow chains

By Moon Joon-hyun

Published : Dec. 11, 2023 - 15:51

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On the left is a tire with snow chain mode off, where shape memory alloy modules are retracted in an On the left is a tire with snow chain mode off, where shape memory alloy modules are retracted in an "L" shape, lying dormant within the tire. On the right, activating snow chain mode applies an electrical current, turning the modules to a "J" shape and extending them outward from the tire surface to engage with snow. (Hyundai Motor Company)

Hyundai Motor and its sister company Kia on Monday unveiled a new tire technology that promises to improve winter driving safety and convenience by offering an automatic, hassle-free alternative to traditional snow chains.

The patented technology integrates snow chains into the tire using a shape memory alloy.

Traditional snow chains, known for their cumbersome installation and removal process, often deter drivers from using them. This new technology enables automatic deployment and retraction of snow chains with the push of a button.

The core of this technology lies in embedding shape memory alloy modules within the tire and wheel. These modules, normally hidden, can extend outwards to act as snow chains when activated by the driver.

The design features grooves in the wheel and tire, which is where these modules are housed. When applied with an electric current upon driver activation, the shape memory alloy changes form. In its inactive state, the alloy sits in an "L" shape inside the wheel. When activated, it transitions to a "J" shape, pushing the module outside the tire to engage with snow.

These protruding modules mimic the function of conventional snow chains that provide a rugged, uneven tire surface that increases traction on snow and ice, allowing for a seamless transition to snow-ready tires without manual intervention.

This technology also doubles as a wear indicator for the tires. When the tire tread becomes excessively worn, its surface becomes flush with the retracted module, making it possible to alert drivers of critical tire replacements.

Hyundai Motor Group has filed patent applications for this technology in both South Korea and the United States. Plans for mass production are contingent upon further development, including comprehensive durability and performance testing.

"Dealing with snowy roads can be tricky, and we know snow chains are a hassle to put on and take off for many of our customers. We're committed to creating solutions that both keep our drivers safe and make their lives easier," said a spokesperson from Hyundai Motor.