No one wants to be faced with deep snow and no snow chains, but Hyundai has demonstrated a potential solution that could prove to be a must-have for car owners who live where it snows a lot.
The automaker on Monday revealed a concept tire with retractable elements that act like a snow chain. The design relies on a special alloy that changes between specific shapes depending on whether an electric current is applied, which the driver could control via a button inside the vehicle.
Several of these so-called shape memory alloy elements would be placed around the tire within grooves. Normally the alloy would reside below the tire's surface, but when a current is applied it changes shape so that it protrudes from the surface, helping to improve grip, stability, and safety on snowy roads.
Another benefit of the technology is that it can warn if the tire tread is getting too low. Should the tread wear down to the level of the alloy, the driver will immediately know it's time for a tire change.
Hyundai has patented the design and is considering putting it into production, pending further testing and development.
The automaker isn't the first to explore such technology. Finland's Nokian Tyres a decade ago showed off a concept tire with retractable studs. While the studs aren't quite as dramatic as Hyundai's shape memory alloy, they would still be able to provide that extra safety margin in exceptional circumstances.