Lexus commissioned a team of ice sculpture specialists to explore how ice could be used in place of conventional alloy metal and rubber to create tyres made of ice. After three months’ research, design and testing, the finished wheels were fitted to a Lexus NX for the ultimate ice drive. Here’s how it was done:
The shape of the rim on the car is a very strong, bold, geometric shape – it really comes out in ice.
Sculptor Jack Hackney explains what makes the sharply styled Lexus NX an ideal subject for the ice-tyre project: “It’s about having a bold silhouette, good detail, which is why these wheels are brilliant because the shape of the rim on the car is a very strong, bold, geometric shape – it really comes out in ice.”
As with our world-famous Origami Lexus IS, we applied the same principles of painstaking research and meticulous development that Lexus employs to set its production vehicles apart from the competition.
After the initial discussions as to how to execute the project aims, the practical development began with an exploration of how to safely create ice tyres that could support the NX crossover.
At the same time, the 17″ five-twin-spoke alloy wheel, tyre and associated brake and hub components were 3D laser-scanned by project partner LaserCutWorks to create a perfect virtual copy that would then form the basis of the computer-aided design (CAD) process.
As impressive as it looks, optically perfect sculpted ice isn’t intrinsically strong enough to bear the loads sustained in this type of project, so it was decided to create two sets of ice tyres: one ‘stunt’ set machined and sculpted entirely from ice, and an engineered set that could be physically bolted to the NX and driven upon.
The engineered wheels incorporate a load-bearing element made from acrylic, which was then sandwiched between the sculpted ice wheel and tyre faces.
For the ice wheels, Hamilton Ice Sculptors began with modern CNC-machining techniques to rapidly create the basic size and shape before reverting to traditional tools and methods for the detail and hand-finishing work. This is highly-skilled craftsmanship, applied to a project unlike anything they had ever tackled before.
Logistically and technically, it’s up there with one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
Just as every Lexus vehicle benefits from the presence and influence of Lexus’ highly-skilled ‘Takumi’ craftsmen, the ice-tyre NX required similar levels of skill and attention to detail to achieve the perfect end result, while simultaneously employing modern, cutting-edge techniques to ensure consistency, quality and reliability.
Echoing the Lexus values of exquisite design paired with engineering excellence, Jamie Hamilton explains his two-fold desire with the ice-tyre NX: “At the same time you’re trying to get those technical details right, you’re also trying to make something beautiful.”
Speaking about the overall challenge of the ice-tyre NX, Jack says: “Logistically and technically, it’s up there with one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.” Yet that’s what drives Lexus to make every car better, engineered and designed to perfection. It’s how Lexus creates amazing.
For more details on the Lexus NX premium crossover, please visit the Lexus UK website, or leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch to arrange a test drive at your local Lexus Centre.