Hyundai has come up with a solution to get rid of traditional snow chains and the hassle that comes with mounting them. It's called a shape memory alloy snow chain and replicates the functionality at the touch of a button. How does it work? The newly developed wheel and tyre assembly has built-in radial grooves at regular intervals. There are shape memory alloys inserted into these channels, making the assembly look like a pizza.
When an electrical signal is received, the shape memory alloy modules protrude to behave like a snow chain. The elements sticking out of the rubber form a "J" shape to improve grip on a slippery surface during wintertime. When not in use, the shape memory alloy resides within the wheel in the shape of an "L" that doesn’t touch the road surface.
Inevitably, the tyre will be worn down to the point where those alloys will always make contact with the road surface. That's when the tyre will have to be replaced. Hyundai mentions it has applied for a patent at home in South Korea as well as in United States. Meanwhile, it already has plans to further develop the technology. If everything goes according to plan, Hyundai and Kia will consider putting shape memory alloy snow chains into mass production.
However, one question arises. How much would it cost? We're not just talking about how expensive the tyre is going to be. Replacing the wheel isn't going to be cheap either considering the shape memory alloy starts near the centre of the wheel. It pops out from the tyre after the electrical signal is received.
It's obviously more convenient this way since all you must do is touch a button on the infotainment system instead of mounting a traditional snow chain. You press it again after you're done using the snow chains, without having to store them in the boot of the car. It's hard to say how many people would fork out the money for this technology, should it reach production.