South Korean tire-maker Hankook has opened a 126ha test track – billed as the biggest in Asia – in the west-coast city of Taean to develop high-tech tires.
The “Hankook Techno-ring” has 13 tracks that allow up to 50 cars to be driven at 250km/h.
Tires will be evaluated for a range of vehicles, from racing cars to trucks and buses. As well as the tracks, there will be control towers, office buildings, tire workshops and an EV charging station.
Cho Hyun-bum, chairman of Hankook & Company, said at the opening ceremony that the ring was an attempt to keep abreast of rapid changes in the automotive industry.
“We are also keenly aware of the fact that we could be eliminated unless we try to innovate,” he said. “The systematic testing of tires is essential for a tire maker. Based on quality tests, the company will create synergy with future businesses and use them as new growth engines.”
The Techno-ring will harvest performance data that will be analysed to develop what Hankook calls AI-enabled “virtual optimisation technology”. To help amass the data, the facility has a monitoring system that evaluates how tyres perform, taking into account road surfaces and weather.
The synergies mentioned by Cho include the development of the centre’s a 37m-high control tower – the Hankook Technoplex – which could be exported to the global market.
Hankook president Lee Soo-il added that the Techno-ring will strengthen his company’s cooperation with Hyundai Motor Group, which will operate a driving school at the track.
The global tire market is expected to be worth some $280bn by 2024. Hankook is the world’s sixth largest manufacturer, behind Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Sumitomo.