Carbon Revolution (Manhattan Beach, Calif., USA) reported on June 22 that it has developed what it says is the world's first full, one-piece carbon fiber composite wheel.
Development of the wheel, called the CR9, started as an independently run research and development program in collaboration with a leading research institution. This evolved into a highly focused and effective group of leading engineers, scientists and industrialists within a tightly managed innovation cell. The wheels are said to be 40 to 50 percent lighter than premium OEM equivalents made from aluminum, yet they reportedly exceed OEM standards in laboratories and on the test track.
The manufacturing process is said to be highly efficient and controllable, merging the rigor of aerospace processes with the efficiency and control of high-volume automotive production. The full scale production lines will be fully automated — human interaction will be limited to the supervision of machinery and robotic equipment. Achieving global OEM standards for component supply (TS16949) is just part of the overall world class approach to quality and process control. This approach has attracted strong support and funding from the Australian Government under its $5.4 billion New Car Plan.
The wheels are constructed from continuous fiber and feature a patented bolted joint system that solves the challenges of attaching composites to metals under dynamic loading conditions. Carbon Revolution conducted much of the early laboratory testing in Germany using techniques and test rigs that are favored by OEMs over common industry tests. This approach has ensured that the most rigorous standards imposed by European OEMs have been tested for in the best German laboratories.
Carbon Revolution is in the process of commissioning its first commercial production line. Much of the capacity of this line will be used in further development work across the automotive OEM, aerospace and industrial sectors, but a small number of wheels will be available to the market globally over the coming months.