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.