Hankook Tire Europe's Innovative Strides: A Deeper Dive into EV-Specific Tires and 3D Printed Tread Patterns

As Hankook Tire Europe GmbH continues to make waves by investing in cutting-edge technologies and sustainable solutions.

Following our previous report on the expansion of Hankook's Retread Alphatread range, we had the opportunity to delve deeper into two significant areas of innovation with Guy Heywood, Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Strategy at Hankook Tire Europe GmbH.

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Hankook Tire
Published on
February 22, 2024

EV-Specific Tyres Development:

Given the growing prominence of electric vehicles (EVs), what inspired Hankook to invest in the development of EV-specific tyres rather than simply adapting existing models to accommodate increased load requirements?

Guy Heywood (GH):

We are seeing a steady adoption of EV vehicles in Europe now -- new vehicle registrations in the EU - 2023 10% Vans, 29% buses and 1.5% Trucks were EV or Hybrid. So we are now seeing the effects of this new generation of vehicles in terms of tyre performance.

We are seeing excessive wear rates in many applications where traditional tyres are fitted to EV cars or commercial vehicles (up to 20% faster tyre wear). This is because the EV vehicles are quite different from traditional engine powered vehicles and these differences mean in our view it is essential to use tyres designed specifically for EV vehicles where possible and so we launched our iON car and van EV product range in 2021 and we will commercially launch our e-SMART Truck and Bus EV tyre range later this year.

Could you elaborate on the unique challenges and considerations involved in creating tyres specifically tailored for electric vehicles, and how Hankook aims to address them?


As I mentioned EV vehicles place significantly higher demands on their tyres than conventional engine powered vehicles. EV cars and commercial vehicle are :

- Up to 20% heavier -- due to the weight of the batteries
- Have up to 10x the torque -- due to the acceleration rates for EV motors
- Require lower tyre/road noise -- no engine noise so tyre 'road roar' is much easier to hear
- Need lower tyre rolling resistance -- battery mileage is a main concern for EV vehicle users so to extend mileage from 1 battery charge, EV tyres are designed with low rolling resistance.
- Resistance to tread wear -- Torque, Weight, Acceleration and braking forces are very high in EV vehicles so tread compounds needs to be adapted to give similar mileage potential for the tyre to non EV vehicles

This list of usage criteria is different from traditional tyres so we believe it makes sense to design, develop and offer EV specific product ranges for these new vehicles.

Our iON and e-SMART products are using new materials, reinforced tyre casings, 3D printed tread patterns, Foam filled inserts and new tyre design and testing to meet these challenging usage requirements.

How do EV-specific tyres contribute to overall vehicle efficiency, range, and environmental sustainability? Are there specific technologies or features that set Hankook's EV tyres apart in terms of performance and eco-friendliness?


It is surprising for many people to learn that up to 30% of the fuel or battery power for a vehicle is used to overcome the rolling resistance of the tyres. So if we can adapt the tyre tread design and tread compound to reduce rolling resistance by 10%, we can achieve 3% more mileage for the same fuel use (Diesel or EV battery). So EV specific tyres designed for low rolling resistance can mean more vehicle range for the same charge.

As mentioned in the previous answer, Hankook design our EV product ranges to be more robust in terms of tyre wear. We see traditional tyres wearing 20% faster than normal when they are fitted to EV vehicles, with EV specific tyres we expect the wear rate to be more normal, meaning less tyre wear particle emissions and more mileage for the same tyre cost.

Hankook have industry leading targets for sustainability -- 100% by 2050 which has been recognised by the S&P Global Gold class award for sustainability and more recently the Car and Driver Magazine 'Sustainable Future award 2023'.

Hankook Receives "S&P Global Gold Class" Sustainability Award

In what ways does Hankook envision EV-specific tyres influencing the future landscape of mobility, and what benefits can fleet operators and individual consumers expect from adopting these specialised tyres?


We expect that the adoption of EV vehicles in Europe and Globally will accelerate in the years to come and within 15 years EV will dominate the market.

So we are now preparing for this future with EV specific product ranges for the early adopter users of EV cars, vans and commercial vehicles.

These tyres are specifically designed for the challenging tyre usage conditions we find in EV vehicles. So the expected performance in terms of mileage, battery saving, wear rate, grip, traction and noise is significantly higher than the levels we see with traditional tyres fitted to EV vehicles.

So for EV users and commercial EV fleets, we would expect to offer significant cost savings in tyres, and also the charging costs for their fleet. Extra mileage from the tread and lower rolling resistance will translate to appreciable savings in tyre costs and the costs for recharging the batteries for the vehicles.

There are also intangible benefits from lower operating noise, better grip and traction and torque carrying which will improve the driver and passenger experience.

This is why Hankook are investing in EV specific product ranges when many Premium competitors are simply adapting existing products with extra weight carrying capabilities. We feel this is a compromise which is unnecessary, we want the best possible performance at an affordable price for all our business partners.

3D Printed Tread Pattern Innovation:

Hankook has been at the forefront of innovation with 3D printed tread patterns. Can you share insights into how this technology is revolutionising tire performance and what advantages it brings to end-users?


You are right, 3D additive manufacturing is a rapidly developing technology, which Hankook invested in several years ago. We anticipated that we could use 3D metal alloy printing machines to produce the moulds for our new generation of tyres.

So we bought a 3D printing company and we started to develop this technology more than 5 years ago. Today we are using 24 segment alloy 3D printed tread moulds to produce the tread patterns for all our latest generation of Truck and Bus products in Europe.

SMARTFLEX AH/DH51 Regional products are 100% 3D -- launched in 2022

SMARTFLEX AL/DL51 Hybrid Regional/Long Haul are 100% 3D -- Launched in 2023

SMARTLINE AL/DL50 Long Haul are 100% 3D -- Launched in 2023

e-SMART CITY AU56 Urban EV tyre are 100% 3D -- Launched in 2024

Basically 3D alloy printing removed the constraints tyre designers have had to accept. They could not design 3D complex tread patterns because the mould to produce the tread could not be machined into shape using traditional processes. With 3D printed metal moulds, all 3D features can be printed into the mould, meaning hidden grooves, holes and interlocking features are now possible to design and produce.

These 3D tread features give many advantages over conventional non 3D moulds and treads.

The holes and channels inside of the tread allow water and air to circulate under the tread pattern which cools the tyre. A cooler tyre means less wear and also better rolling resistance so less tyre costs and less fuel cost and C02 emissions.

These same features are exposed to the tread surface as the tread wears down. So extra gripping surfaces, rain and water evacuation channels are revealed when the tyre is worn. This means the wet grip, traction performance for the tyre is maintained even when the tyre is in its worn state.

So 3D is a game changing technology for tyres and combined with other technologies like AI aided design and also new materials, we can improve the tyre performance by as much as 20% when compared to previous models of tyres. This is unprecedented gains in performance which is unlocked by these key innovations.

This is why Hankook are now renewing the entire range of products in Europe with 3D printed and AI aided designed products.


How does 3D printing enable the customisation of tread patterns, and what role does it play in enhancing safety, durability, and overall tyre functionality?


As mentioned 3D printed tread patterns mean more mileage, less fuel costs and also significant improvements in wet grip and traction when the tyres are in their worn condition.

This innovation can mean as much as 6m shorter stopping distance than other premium competitor tyres when emergency braking on wet roads. So safety benefits of the technology are also a key selling point.

Are there specific performance metrics or real-world testing results that showcase the tangible benefits of Hankook's 3D printed tread patterns in comparison to traditional methods?


We are seeing the performance of our first 3D printed product (AH/DH51) now in Europe as we launched these tyres in late 2022. We are seeing the mileage performance is 20% or more than our previous generation of AH/DH31 tyres and we are receiving very positive feedback from fleet drivers in terms of the grip, traction and stability of the tyres in use.

We have done some testing of Hankook AH/DH51 versus all the latest technology premium competitor products and we saw up to a 6m stopping distance difference when emergency braking on a wet road with part worn tyres. This difference is the benefit of the 3D regenerative tread pattern and it could be the difference between a safe emergency stop and an accident, so we are very proud of this result.

Considering the rapid evolution of technology, how does Hankook foresee the future development and application of 3D printing in the tire industry, and what potential breakthroughs or improvements can consumers anticipate?


We foresee 3D printed tread patterns being used on all tyres in future. The benefits of the technology far outweigh the significant cost of the technology investments so we expect our competitors to start to adopt this innovation also.

We will use 3D printed technologies on our PCR and TBR product ranges going forward. All of the new products in the Hankook catalogue in Europe now are 3D printed and all products in the design phase are also planned to use this technology. So any fleet using Hankook can be assured that they are using and buying products using the latest possible technologies, targeted at delivering benchmark industry performance at a cost below many of our premium competitors.

This is the strategy for Hankook and this is why we are growing our market share in Europe year on year.

As the industry evolves, Hankook's strategic vision for the future promises not only to enhanced safety, durability, and efficiency but also provide tangible benefits for both fleet operators and individual consumers.

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