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The ACRIM wheel’s modular concept enables the creation of wheels ranging from a “traditional” two-piece bolted metallic center, albeit with a composite barrel, to an (above) over-molded all-composite wheel. (Carbon ThreeSixty)

All-composite EV wheel heads to production

The first commercially viable, low cost, lightweight, all-composite wheel enters the next phase of development by the end of 2020.

Designed for EV and niche applications, the first commercially viable, low cost, lightweight, all-composite wheel moves to the next phase of development with a pilot production run. The product-development consortium, made up of Carbon ThreeSixty, Far-UK, Composite Integration and CNC Robotics, along with Bitrez Ltd as the preferred resin formulator, says it will manufacture 50 ACRIM (All Composite Reduced Inertia Modular) wheels by the end of 2020.

The consortium announced three full vehicle sets are scheduled for proving on MOTIV (below), a unique and versatile autonomous vehicle (AV). The AV uses Gordon Murray Design’s iStream Superlight technology and two sets of world-first overmolded RTM (resin transfer molding) wheels, which are headed for qualification testing. The consortium appears ready to challenge the world’s most prominent source of production-vehicle carbon-fiber wheels, Australian outfit Carbon Revolution which produces wheels for Ford’s GT and Mustang Shelby GT500.

The consortia’s work will enable wider access to key lightweighting technologies for the lower-volume niche automotive manufacturers. The ACRIM wheel offers flexibility in the styling and configuration of lightweight all-composite wheels, putting it on track to reduce the weight of a 15-in wheel by 50%, which could deliver a 5% fuel savings or a 5% CO2 reduction when retrofitted to a petrol- or diesel-fueled vehicle, according to a release from the product-development consortium.

Lead project partner Edward Allnutt, managing director at Carbon ThreeSixty, which specializes in the design and manufacture of advanced composite structures, said: “The world’s first all-composite wheel for electric and niche vehicles has moved a major step forward, and we can confidently say it has the ability to deliver huge cost savings over anything on the market. It can also be manufactured in volume and gives OEMs huge flexibility in what they can specify. This is truly a quantum leap in wheel design and manufacture.”

For the next phase, which kicked off in summer 2020, the consortia aims to decrease manufacturing cost and cycle time. This is a multi-strand approach that includes processing of a three-component epoxy-resin system with an in-mold release agent. Piston pump technology should deliver repeatable and higher-quality lamination through increased control and monitoring of the preconditioning of resin prior to injection (metering, mixing, pre-heating and degassing), and a mold-pressure closed-loop control system aims to improve yield.

The modular concept enables the creation of wheels ranging from a “traditional” two-piece bolted metallic center, albeit with a composite barrel (mature, low risk architecture) to an over-molded all-composite wheel. “Far-UK is pleased to see this project progressing,” said Kevin Lindsey, Director Far-UK Ltd. “We are convinced that the skills of the consortium will help the project progress to a fully carbon fiber wheel that customers want to use for the weight saving, and that makes good economic sense to use as well.”

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