Only yesterday we brought you news that the Ford Motor Company’s [NYSE:F] upcoming Mustang Shelby GT350R will be fitted as standard with light yet sturdy carbon fiber wheels, a technology previously the domain of the aftermarket and exotic supercars. While companies like Ford are helping to bring carbon fiber wheels to the masses, the finicky production process and steep costs means it is likely years still before we see more cars adopt the technology.
The good news is that a new wheel design combining carbon fiber with more traditional aluminum can provide much of the strength and weight-saving benefits of pure carbon wheels at an “attractive” price, say the developers of the technology. Behind the new aluminum-carbon wheels are German firms ThyssenKrupp Carbon Components and Maxion Wheels. ThyssenKrupp is a leader in carbon fiber applications and lightweight materials while Maxion is the world’s largest wheel manufacturer.
Their new aluminum-carbon wheels are said to be as much as 40 percent lighter than forged aluminum wheels, which means they’re almost as light as the pure carbon solution. And by cutting unsprung mass, you get lighter, shaper steering, better handling, and even better acceleration and braking performance. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get fuel economy gains as well as improvements in noise, vibration, and harshness levels (due to natural damping properties of the carbon).
The wheels are currently being tested in prototype form and a number of OEMs in the performance and luxury sector are involved, one of which is an unnamed Volkswagen Group brand. Vehicles being used to test the wheels include luxury sedans, SUVs and sports models. Unfortunately, no launch date has been mentioned.