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Kumho Concept Car Offers Peek at Adjustable Tread Tyres

Kumho says it is a tyre manufacturer with a conscience.

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While the South Korean company produces millions of tyres for today’s SUVs, it holds an acute awareness that such vehicles will have to dramatically change if they are to survive ever greener vehicular legislation. Amongst the changes Kumho foresees for this type of vehicle is the need to provide a better balance of on- and off-road ability. The company has therefore employed the skills of its in-house designer, Rob Dolton, to demonstrate exactly what tomorrow’s SUVs could be like – Fortis is the name given to the intriguing concept creation.

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Fortis has the aggressive stance expected of a SUV combined with aesthetic touches such as light clusters that take their cues from Korean glass sculpture. A nod toward greater environmental consideration can be seen in the vehicle’s bumper sections, doors, bonnet, front wings and rear hatch, which are manufactured from recycled tyre rubber. Underpinning all this machismo is a modular chassis and drivetrain concept that allows for different vehicles to be easily packaged around common parts.

The drivetrain comprises four 100hp chassis-mounted motors – one powering each wheel when the vehicle is in 4×4 mode. This system provides off-road traction, ESP and hill descent, while the motor configuration allows for easy transition between four and two-wheel drive or front and real-wheel drive. The in-wheel regenerative braking system gives optimum on-road driving response.

Power comes from a lithium ion battery pack and Kumho believes the viability of such alternative propulsion depends upon the technology becoming as user friendly and convenient as petrol and diesel are today. Fortis’s batteries can therefore be recharged or exchanged.

Tyre lovers probably should at this stage don a bib to protect their garments from drool stains…Kumho notes that the only way an SUV can currently provide optimum performance both on and off-road is to change the tyres for each requirement. The Fortis, however, allows its driver to specify the performance required from just one set of tyres by having a tread pattern that can be adjusted at will. The tyres feature metal biters in their tread that optimise off-road performance – when employed, they grip the terrain for maximum traction and durability. For on-road use, the tyre cavity is inflated. This expands the rubber areas of the tyre to cover the metal biters, offering high levels of comfort, noise performance and road-biased dynamic ability.

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Rob Dolton, says Kumho, is the only qualified vehicle designer employed within the world’s tyre industry and is retained by the company’s European Technical Centre in Birmingham specifically to explore future technologies for road and track vehicles, and the tyres on which they run. A graduate of the internationally renowned Automotive Design Department of Coventry University, he worked for Fiat Advanced Design in Turin before joining Kumho in 2005. Dolton’s previous vehicle concepts include a bamboo-chassied single-seat racecar powered by four Maglev units. (Tyres & Accessories/Staffordshire, U.K.)

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