Re-inventing the wheel
It’s light with a heavyweight future, writes Paul Gover
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.