Hankook's iON race tyre is designed from the ground up to fulfil the sustainability needs of Formula E and the future of e-mobility, without compromising performance. Nearly 30 percent of the new tyre, 28% to be exact, is made of sustainable materials.
Teams have access to a tyre that can be used across all conditions from wet to dry, hot to cool and everything in-between, in order to save resources on-track. The long durability of the tyre is another pioneering step, with each driver given only four new front and rear tyres per event, which must last through shakedown, practice, qualifying and the race itself - through careful management and clever design.
“The official Formula E tyre supplier must meet a wide variety of conditions which includes most importantly race tyre performance. From the logistics to the capabilities and seamless support at competitions around the world, environmental friendliness and sustainability are essential," says Hankook's Research Institute Formula E Tyre Development Project team members Min-young Yoon, Su-jin Jang, Ji-woong Choi.
"The conditions presented are very specific and demanding in Formula E," adds Jang. "Therefore, it was an important task to overcome the trade-off between tyre performance and develop a tyre that is as balanced as possible to achieve the so-called 'magic triangle' without leaning on either side. Simply, the development was very similar to the development of the EV tyre development."
"The goal of Formula E is sustainability," says Yoon. "That's why there is no tire change during the race. To be precise, only two sets of tyres are allowed per race from the shakedown session to qualifying and the final race. Therefore, it was an important condition to be able to advance through the entire race course with one set of tyres. From the tire manufacturer's point of view, it was a new challenge that was completely different from developing a standard race tyre."
Sustainability from inception
Hankook's competition in Formula E sees the company double down on its already strong sustainability credentials, as one of only two companies in the auto components industry to achieve Dow Jones Sustainability World Index Gold Class status.
During the tender process, exacting sustainability criteria were put to companies pitching to be a part of the GEN3 era. This was no different for Hankook, who are held to the same strict sustainability requirements as every supplier.
"The FIA and Formula E announced regulations including clear conditions so companies understand the requirements and parameters, and then companies that can meet the demand bid," says Choi. "Bidding is conducted in the same way for not only tyre manufacturers, but also supply manufacturers for all common parts used in the race cars, such as batteries, chassis, and electric motors.
"It is the most basic thing to have outstanding performance of tyres which allows participating in racing, but it is also important to have the capacity to manufacture and supply the required quantity in a timely manner. In particular, since Formula E is held all over the world, the supplier's global logistics capability is essential.
After every race weekend, Hankook takes the tyres away and completely recycles every set, ensuring the championship is as sustainable as possible when it comes to the rubber that hits the track.
Formula E, as the world's first net zero since inception sporting championship, requires its suppliers to conform to strict criteria on emissions during production - to a standard Hankook says it has yet to see elsewhere. This means where the tyres are made, the materials that built the lab and its factory and how far the tyres ultimately travel in freight are all taken into consideration.
"In addition, the eco-friendly contribution to evaluate sustainability is of utmost importance," continues Choi. "It is necessary to establish a plan for reducing carbon emissions, utilizing eco-friendly raw materials, and establishing an overall system for evaluating the environmental impact from tyre production to recycling after disposal.
"Above all, the supplier must also submit what kind of synergy it can create with Formula E. It can join the full-fledged competitive bidding only when these conditions are met."
Hankook's Formula E legacy
Hankook, and its engineers, have worked tirelessly to further their products' sustainabiility while delivering in the harshest of test-bed environments - world-class electric motorsport. The goal is to maintain that performance while improving the tyre's life cycle credentials, as well as its overall sustainability.
Working to Formula E's exacting standards helps drive Hankook to do just that.
"Our goal is to transform the value chain of tyres into a sustainable loop," says Jang. "We considered everything from raw material supply and demand to tire production as well as recycling as raw materials after disposal. This is the social responsibility Hankook Tire considers most important. Eco-friendliness and sustainability are also important values for the FIA. It is the most important task for us, as Formula E itself is a motorsport born from such a background."
The engineering team all earmark sustainability as one of the key goals and outcomes of their work. Performance on-track is a given, an eco-friendlier tyre is the legacy they are aiming to leave on-track and with consumers.
"Having supplied tires to large-scale motorsport series for more than 10 years," says Choi. "I am confident that we have already been recognised as a top-tier tyre brand in terms of performance and durability. I hope to spread that awareness more widely by starting to supply the Formula E tyre. Particularly, I hope we will be recognized as a tire company that strives for eco-friendliness and social responsibility.
"I hope people see us as a company that does research and takes on new challenges in line with the trend of a paradigm shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles," adds Yoon, and Jang agrees: "From a motorsport perspective, I hope we will be remembered as a company that communicates smoothly with the FIA and Formula E organisers. And I want them to know that we are a company that is constantly working towards a new goal of being eco-friendly."
Going beyond is the aim, and the next step for the team is to recycle the tyres wholly, using a process called pyrolysis to recover the used rubber to create the building blocks of "new" sets of Hankook iON Race tyres.
"Becoming the official tire supplier of Formula E means that we have proven our commitment and ability to go beyond the performance of a race tyre and to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. Going forward, we plan to recover all used Formula E tyres and recycle them through a pyrolysis process.”