Car­bon Fu­ture

Emerg­ing high-end wheel tech­nol­ogy ap­pears headed for the main­stream

Automobile - - Contents - By Nel­son Ire­son

Car­bon fiber is the au­to­mo­bile’s fu­ture, and to­day’s fron­tier is the wheel: ex­plor­ing the myths and re­al­i­ties of us­ing the ma­te­rial in place of steel and alu­minum.

WAY BACK IN the early 1970s, Miche­lin made a run of com­pos­ite glass-fiber and resin wheels for Citroën’s SM-based rally car. The first car equipped with them won its first race, the 1971 Morocco Rally. By 1972 they were of­fered as a fac­tory op­tion for buy­ers of road-go­ing SMs.

In the 1980s, Dodge and Car­roll Shelby teamed up for the CSX, the fi­nal ver­sion of which, the 1989 CSXVNT, wore a set of com­pos­ite wheels called Fiber­rides. Like the Miche­lin/Citroën wheels be­fore them, the Fiber­rides were a com­pos­ite glass fiber con­struc­tion.

Fast-for­ward to 2013, when bou­tique hy­per­car maker Koenigsegg be­gan of­fer­ing car­bon-fiber one­piece wheels for its 250-plus-mph ground-bound space­ships. They’re quite a pretty penny, how­ever: A set of four will set you back about $40,000—on top of the roughly $2 mil­lion price tag for one of its cars.

To­day, Porsche is the only main­stream au­tomaker de­vel­op­ing one-piece car­bon-fiber wheels in-house, and there’s just one sup­plier, Car­bon Rev­o­lu­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing them for pro­duc­tion cars, in­clud­ing the Ford GT, Mus­tang GT350R, and sev­eral up­com­ing mod­els from other brands—though there are a num­ber of other out­fits mak­ing “hy­brid” car­bon/al­loy wheels for the af­ter­mar­ket. Car­bon Rev­o­lu­tion has big plans to scale up from the tens of thou­sands of one-piece car­bon-fiber wheels it says it will pro­duce this year into the hun­dreds of thou­sands if not mil­lions as it moves into the next decade. Sooner if co-founder Brett Gass has his way.

“We’ve got a pro­gram un­der­way that’s a 22-inch car­bon-fiber wheel for a very se­ri­ous off-road SUV,” Gass said. “And those types of vol­umes in that world, those are tens of thou­sands of ve­hi­cles. Those are big pro­grams.”

Car­bon Rev­o­lu­tion is also work­ing with Fer­rari on wheels for the 488 Pista, as ed­i­tor-in-chief Mike Floyd learned at this year’s Geneva auto show. “We were very de­mand­ing with the style,” Edoardo Rossi,

Fer­rari prod­uct mar­ket­ing man­ager for the 488 Pista, said of Fer­rari’s work with Car­bon Rev­o­lu­tion to de­velop the Pista’s spe­cial wheel op­tion. “The spokes are not huge spokes that you see in nor­mal car­bon­fiber com­po­nents. They are very thin, so it was an ad­just­ment. Then we de­vel­oped to­gether the so­lu­tion that you see in­side, the white coat­ing. It is ba­si­cally a coat­ing de­vel­oped from aero­space to pre­serve the car­bon wheel from the heat­ing of the brakes.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.