The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang and 2017 Ford GT hypercar, both revealed at this year’s Detroit North American International Auto Show, take advantage of a hot new wheel material never before used on a mass-produced vehicle: carbon fiber.
Ford’s supplier for those CF wheels is an Australian firm called Carbon Revolution which, according to website CarsGuide, had to chart into unknown territory to come up with the proper manufacturing techniques that would yield lightweight, carbon wheels with more strength than comparable designs made of alloy. “No one has been able to do what we’ve been able to do,” said Carbon Revolution CEO Jake Dingle. “Even the aerospace industry couldn’t figure out a way to do it.”
The success of Carbon Revolution comes as welcome news to Australia, as automakers including Ford, Toyota, and GM’s Holden brand prepare to pull production out of the country. Carbon Revolution contributes to the survival of an estimated 1,000 Ford Australia supplier jobs that might otherwise have been lost, and in fact, more than half of Carbon Revolution’s workforce was previously employed at a Ford Australia plant, or at aluminum company Alcoa.
The carbon fiber wheels supplied by Carbon Revolution for use on the Ford GT and Shelby GT350R save around 60 to 70 pounds per car compared to traditional wheels, according to CarsGuide. The weight reduction helps with efficiency, as well as performance; lighter wheels means less unsprung mass, as well as less rotational inertia.
Carbon Revolution is aiming to increase wheel production to 50,000 units per annum over the next two years. With that, we can only hope that carbon fiber wheels see a decline in price.