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Hankook develops Ultra Fuel Efficiency tire

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CEO Cho Choong-hwan says Hankook Tire Co. plans to commercialize an "Ultra Fuel Efficiency" tire that drastically maximizes fuel efficiency and minimizes exhaust emissions by lowering rolling resistance.

The company invested 10 billion won (approximately $10 million) over five years to develop the new tire, the Hankook fx-Optimo.

Hankook says the tire boasts 15% reduced weight and 25% lower rolling resistance compared to existing tires of the same size. The result is a maximum 3% improvement in fuel efficiency.

"Although a reduction in rolling resistance usually results in greater wear, this product delivered equal levels of durability compared to existing tires," says a Hankook spokesman.

By developing its proprietary Ultra Fuel Efficiency rubber compounding and design technology, the company has built the foundation for targeting the hybrid vehicle tire market.

Hankook says its plans to initially grab the lead in the European market, which is sensitive to fuel prices.

Cho Choong-hwan says Hankook "will lead the market for hybrid vehicle tires. In addition, we will step up efforts to increase the performance of run-flat tires, which we succeeded in commercializing last year."

Hankook developed a special rubber compound technology and tire structure design for the fx-Optimo. It named the new technology the Hankook Hybrid System (HHS) and will brand future product sidewalls with the HHS logo.

HHS includes the Intelligent Compound System, which enhances durability by splitting silica into nano-size pieces, thus improving compound efficiency and uniformity; and the RR Simulation System, which drastically reduces overall rolling resistance by accurately predicting the rolling resistance for each part of the tire.

Hankook Tire mainly employed silica as a reinforcing agent in developing the new product. In the past, the company says it experienced difficulties in using silica "due to its weak durability and problems in compound mixing," even though it is less sensitive to temperature and weather changes and helps reduce rolling resistance.

Because of these disadvantages, tire manufacturers often use carbon black or a combination of carbon black and silica to reinforce tires. Due to its affinity with rubber, carbon black is easy to use in tire manufacturing (but has the disadvantage of performing relatively worse on wet roads and in low temperatures, adds Hankook).

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