Re-in­vent­ing the wheel

It’s light with a heavy­weight fu­ture, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

A VIC­TO­RIAN com­pany is keep­ing one of the world’s fastest cars, the 420km/h Shelby Ul­ti­mate Aero, on the road.

Car­bon Revo­lu­tion pro­duces the one-piece car­bon-fi­bre wheels for the Amer­i­can su­per­car in what is claimed as a world first.

The wheel, called the CR-9, is about half the weight of a tra­di­tional al­loy wheel.

The Vic­to­rian com­pany be­lieves there could even­tu­ally be a global mar­ket for up to 20 mil­lion sets a year.

It’s al­ready talk­ing to some of the top car brands and be­lieves it will be ready for mass pro­duc­tion next year when it has cleared the world’s tough­est test­ing pro­gram in Ger­many.

‘‘Once the test­ing is done the flood­gates will open,’’ Car­bon Revo­lu­tion man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jake Dingle says.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately, we see this as stepchange technology for the auto world. Cars priced from $40,000 will be fair game for our wheels.’’

The Car­bon Revo­lu­tion de­sign prom­ises weight sav­ings for any car, one of the tough­est chal­lenges for com­pa­nies in the 21st cen­tury, be­cause weight sav­ings have a knock-on ef­fect in fuel econ­omy.

The CR-9 al­ready has out­per­formed al­loy wheels on safety and strength and prom­ises a su­pe­rior life ex­pectancy be­cause there is no cor­ro­sion.

Car­bon Revo­lu­tion is also work­ing on a re­cy­cling pro­gram.

Dingle will not go into de­tail about how they are made but says his com­pany’s wheels are the first in the world with an all-new, cost­ef­fec­tive pro­duc­tion process.

‘‘It’s not a cap­i­tal or en­er­gy­in­ten­sive process. The in­no­va­tion be­hind this is twofold: pro­duc­ing the dif­fi­cult ge­om­e­try; and do­ing it in a way that can be pro­duced in a large vol­ume.’’

A set would cur­rently cost more than $10,000 but the price will fall con­sid­er­ably as pro­duc­tion ramps up, like the price of car­bon-ce­ramic brakes on high-per­for­mance cars.

Car­bon Revo­lu­tion was cre­ated as a spinoff from devel­op­ment on a For­mula SAE uni­ver­sity project in 2004. It came about through a part­ner­ship with Deakin Uni­ver­sity and is lo­cated on a technology precinct in Gee­long.

‘‘The technology has been in devel­op­ment since the end of 2004. We now have an in­ter­na­tional patent. The com­pany was es­tab­lished to com­mer­cialise the wheel,’’ Dingle says.

‘‘We’re prob­a­bly in about the 15th gen­er­a­tion of the technology. We’ve pro­duced many pro­to­types and done test­ing. We haven’t been fo­cus­ing on pro­duc­tion.’’

Even so, a meet­ing in the US led to the Car­bon Revo­lu­tion wheels find­ing their way on to the Shelby speed ma­chine, which has a twin­turbo V8 en­gine and can blast to 100km/h in 2.78 sec­onds.

‘‘It was a re­la­tion­ship es­tab­lished about 2½ years ago. We were look­ing for a part­ner who was at the cut­ting edge, and at that time they held the speed record for a pro­duc­tion car,’’ Dingle says.

‘‘We’ve done sev­eral sets for them for test­ing and in­ter­nal work.’’

The Ger­man test­ing is the next hur­dle, but Dingle ex­pects it to be cleared soon, and the com­pany is now re­cruit­ing pro­duc­tion staff in Gee­long.

Weight sav­ings: the Car­bon Revo­lu­tion CR-9 wheels are on the Shelby Ul­ti­mate Aero.

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