Somewhere along the line, you’ve probably acquired at least a basic understanding of the benefits of lightweight wheels; their contribution to a low curb weight is the least of it. By reducing unsprung mass – that is, whatever mass isn’t kept aloft by the suspension – engineers can improve a vehicle’s response, handling, and steering feel. Furthermore, the reduction of rotational inertia that comes with lightweight wheels can allow for better acceleration and efficiency, to an extent.
Of course, aluminum alloy wheels have been the de facto lightweight alternative to steel for a number of decades now, and we dare say that the material has become the new norm. These days, carbon fiber has replaced aluminum as the more appealing, ideal composition for lightweight wheels.
Alas, carbon fiber production is still prohibitively expensive for large-scale mass production. That’s why German firms ThyssenKrupp and Maxion Wheels are jointly-developing a new method of producing hybrid carbon-aluminum lightweight wheels, with hopes of capitalizing on both the lightness of carbon fiber, and the (comparative) inexpense of aluminum alloys.
The new lightweight wheels are as much as 40 percent less hefty than equivalent forged aluminum ones, according to Maxion. Prototype carbon-aluminum wheels are already testing on a few unknown Volkswagen Group models, demonstrating tangible improvements to the characteristics listed above.
While we’re not sure at this point how the carbon fiber and aluminum materials will be distributed throughout the new lightweight wheels, a release does specify that Maxion’s “liquid-forged” aluminum discs will be utilized.
Maxion Wheels VP of Business Development Kai Kronenberg said of the joint venture: “The aluminum/carbon fiber hybrid wheels we develop through our cooperation with ThyssenKrupp will fill an important niche in the ultra-lightweight vehicle market.
“It will benefit our customers by expanding our already extensive range of products and capabilities, while enhancing our leadership position in the industry.”