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Australian Firm Aims to Reinvent the Wheel

But this better mousetrap isn't cheap.

by on Nov.12, 2012

A Carbon Revolution wheel for a Porsche 911.

A small Australian firm wants to reinvent the wheel.

Known as Carbon Revolution, the firm has developed what it claims to be the world’s first one-piece carbon fiber wheels.  Super-light but extremely costly, CF is seen by many as the material of the future, at least for the auto industry. And the wheels offer many, if not more, advantages  than using carbon fiber for automotive body panels and chasses.

The Australian start-up is pitching the wheels as a durable, light alternative to traditional aluminum alloy wheels. There is, of course, a trade-off at about $15,000 for a set of four. But company officials insist that if they can get their technology into mass production prices could plunge to a point where the carbon fiber technology could be competitive on mid-range luxury models or even more mainstream vehicles.

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During a recent demonstration of the new technology, Carbon Revolution CEO Jake Dingle and Design Director Ashley Danmead demonstrated a pair of new wheels crafted for use on the latest Porsche 911.  At barely 15 pounds for the front wheels and less than 18 pounds for the back, they weigh in at about 11 to 13 pounds less than Porsche’s stock wheels.

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Designers Put Tomorrow’s Cars on a Diet

Customers want more but mileage rules demand less.

by on May.11, 2012

Whether battery cars, like the Chevy Volt, or more conventional products, cutting weight and improving aero are two critical challenges for designers.

Bigger is better.  It’s been the automotive mandate since the days of Henry Ford.  And with rare exception, that’s precisely what automakers have delivered, vehicles that grow bigger and heavier with every new generation.

But driven by consumer demand for better mileage – and rapidly rising federal fuel economy standards – the push is now in the other direction.  According to many experts, the cars we drive will be substantially smaller and lighter by the end of the decade.

But the process isn’t as simple as it might seem, especially in the U.S., where people equate size with luxury.  Complicating matters, Consumers expect more features and more and more safety equipment,” said General Motors designer Bob Boniface, and even that little CD changer built into the dash adds five pounds of mass.

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Boniface was one of three designers invited to a panel addressing the subject of “lightweighting,” the challenging effort to deliver more of what customers want – and what government regulations require – while somehow lowering the mass of tomorrow’s automobiles.

Ford, for example, has set a goal of trimming as much as 750 pounds off the weight of future models.  And other manufacturers have set similar goals.  But getting there isn’t easy and will depend on some creative solutions from the industry’s designers and engineers.

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Will New Mileage Rules Force Shift from Steel to Carbon Fiber?

Survey says industry leaders expect more changes in the basic automotive building blocks.

by on Aug.02, 2011

Lamborghini is making "heavy" use of lightweight carbon fiber for the new Aventador super car.

With only minor exception, today’s cars are made out of the same building blocks as Henry Ford’s Model T.  Sure, the wooden floor boards are gone and there’s a lot more plastic – with a bit of aluminum and magnesium thrown in — but today’s cars continue to rely on steel, glass and rubber for the majority of their mass.  And mass is going to be one of the biggest enemies as the industry aims to meet the new federal fuel economy standards.

Getting to 54.5 mpg will require major changes in every aspect of automotive design, industry leaders stress, with a heavy emphasis on what’s under the hood.  But a new study finds that the mileage mandates will likely trigger a material revolution, as well.

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“Clearly CAFE regulations have confronted the industry, but they’ve also driven focus around technology needs, material demands and cost issues,” said David Glasscock, global automotive technology director for DuPont Automotive, which commissioned the new study.

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