Cars > Tech

Hyundai and Kia are developing built-in snow chains

These can be deployed at a simple push of a button

You can deploy these high-tech snow chains without the risk of frostbite. IMAGE FROM HYUNDAI

A lot of people think that simply having four-wheel drive is already enough for winter driving. But that’s just not the case as even the world’s chunkiest tires would struggle to claw their way through deep snow. That’s why in countries that experience long and harsh cold seasons, snow chains are a must-have. However, fitting them when the temperature dips below freezing is a real pain in the ass.

Hyundai and Kia are currently developing snow chains that can be conveniently deployed from inside the car. They use Shape Memory Alloys (SMA), which have unique thermal properties that make them ideal materials for such an application. SMAs are easily deformed when they get cold, and they go back to or “remember” their original shape when they warm up.

When exposed to cold temperatures, the SMA modules can move freely. IMAGES FROM HYUNDAI

The integrated snow-chain assembly consists of a conductor built into the wheel and SMA modules concealed within grooves in the tires. When the feature is activated, electric current passes through the conductor. This triggers the modules to deploy and function as snow chains. Upon deactivation, the modules simply retract and the tire resumes gripping the surface of the road. A convenient indicator that the tire needs replacing is when the tread is worn down to the retracted modules in the grooves.

The two automakers are considering producing the wheels and the tires themselves once performance and regulatory tests are done. The patent for this technology is currently pending issuance in South Korea and the United States.

How these snow chains work

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.