Lexus, which is owned by Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM), has uploaded a new video to YouTube showing their latest efforts in alternative automotive design with a set of four replica tires, each carved from solid ice. Each one of the Lexus ice tires took 36 hours to sculpt, according to Car and Driver.
As Gizmodo points out, these ice tires probably aren’t a feature that many “customers are demanding,” but as a novelty the wheels look “perfect” and that, perhaps remarkably, they are strong enough to support the weight of the Lexus NX without cracking or shattering.
The SUV itself was reported to have been stored in a deep freeze for five full days before driving with the tires was attempted. The Lexus NX was chilled at -22 degrees Fahrenheit for the days leading up to the test to make sure that the car did not melt the tires before the drive could be attempted. The freezing left a thin layer of ice over the entire body of the SUV.
The tires were reported to be susceptible to breaking with the slightest ill-placed jolt and to have had “zero traction.” To give them some chance of withstanding the pressure exerted by an operating automobile, before being frozen, the tires were reported to have been fitted with “acrylic spokes” which were then encased in ice. Blue LEDs were also placed in the ice before being frozen to give a novel effect that is especially pronounced in the dark.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) December 21, 2015
The ice tire-fitted Lexus NX was reported to successfully navigate a street in London for a short time — a small pay-off for an endeavor that required three months of “research, development, and testing.”
Lexus has become known for its forays into whimsical areas of automotive design that will likely never find commercial success, in what appear to popular, yet seemingly absurd concepts. Earlier this year, Lexus showcased a car with a body built largely from origami, or Japanese folded paper. Lexus uploaded a video to YouTube depicting British television personality Kevin McCloud driving the origami creation.
In 2014, Canadian Tire, a Canadian department store, froze a body made entirely of ice around the frame of a modified 2005 Chevy truck, according to Marketing Mag. The ice truck was designed as a demonstration of the efficacy of the Canadian Tire MotoMaster Eliminator AGM battery.
The weight of the Canadian Tire ice truck was said to have been the main reason design modifications were made, with all of the ice in the body reported to weigh over 11,000 pounds. The team also added a specially designed platform to hold the ice.
In addition to the weight of the ice body, the heat produced by the engine of a stock set-up proved too much for the frozen body to handle. The addition of a second fan was successful in eliminating all problems associated with overheating, allowing the Canadian Tire ice truck to be successfully driven.
“It was clear we needed extra cooling to keep the truck from melting,” Trevor Byrne with the ice truck team was quoted at the time. “So we added a secondary fan, and were able to avoid any overheating whatsoever.”
A common problem with recreating designs with ice, noted by both the Lexus and the Canadian Tire teams, appears to be its fragility. While ice tires and ice truck bodies have an undeniably attractive look, and from an economic standpoint the ability to pop-out frozen car parts has a definite appeal, the weight, fragility, and fact that it melts in temperatures above freezing will likely relegate ice to the sidelines of auto design for all but the most novel applications for the foreseeable future.
[Screenshot via Lexus UK/YouTube]