When it comes to saving fuel, no aspect of a car’s design can be overlooked and one of the easiest and most common methods for carmakers is reducing weight. Whether it’s designing seats with less padding, using more exotic materials such as carbon-fiber or magnesium, or even completely redesigning an engine to contain fewer parts, carmakers know that if a vehicle weighs less it’s going to consume less fuel.

Parts suppliers are equally focused on weight reduction as they know that a lighter product can be as valuable to a carmaker as a cheaper one. Take Alcoa Wheels, for example. The company is one of one of the biggest wheel suppliers in North America and it has just engineered a new wheel claimed to be lighter and stronger than any previous design.

The new wheel is a 17in forged aluminum unit that’s 30% lighter than current designs and will be used for the upcoming Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid – a car where fuel-economy will essentially be the most important factor for consumers. But that’s just the beginning revealed Alcoa's marketing manager Joel Alent during a recent interview with Automotive News.

Alent explained that the key to the new design is the use of aircraft-grade aluminum. Since the material is 20% lighter than regular aluminum but just as rigid, Alcoa can hollow out the spokes of a wheel while maintaining its strength. He went on to explain that removing 100 pounds from a vehicle can boost fuel-economy by about 1.5%. This might not seem like much but when carmakers are spending billions of dollars to develop vehicles that can meet 35mpg CAFE regulations every little bit counts.