Previously seen to be purely performance driven for racing and high-performance applications, lightweight carbon wheels are now being investigated by electric and niche vehicles and OEMs to further reduce fuel consumption, emissions, extend vehicle range and increase payload.
And with the wheel’s effectiveness set to be tested by two OEMs and a global Tier 1 wheel supplier – GKN, MeV and Microcab – there is clearly a lot of interest in this project from the automotive industry.
Lead project partner, Edward Allnutt, Managing Director at Carbon ThreeSixty, which specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced composite structures, said: “Without funding from the Niche Vehicle Network this project would not have got off the ground. The funding is enabling us to further invest in R&D and accelerate the time to market for innovative products such as the ACRIM-Wheel. Despite SMEs being the engine room for innovation within the UK, we often struggle to access the finance required to exploit our ideas. Support from organisations such as the Niche Vehicle Network and Innovate UK enables us to do just that. The partnership for this project represents some of the foremost experts in the UK composites sector working together to launch a truly revolutionary product.”
Dominic Hopwood, Sales Manager at Bitrez Ltd, Europe’s leading manufacturer of specialist polymers and chemicals, said: “We’re very proud to be the resin formulation partner for this project, developing high performance, REACH compliant matrix systems to meet the demands of process and performance, whilst also investigating how more sustainable materials can play their part. The all-composite wheel demonstrates how the industry is helping to reduce the world’s carbon footprint. It’s lightweight and low-cost and will help save fuel, reduce carbon emissions and increase the number of miles an electric vehicle can travel.”
Lyndon Sanders, Sales Director at Far Composites, which specialises in the design and manufacture of lightweight structural composite components to reduce both weight and vehicle emissions, said: “We are looking forward to this project. It feels like a great team and a light-weight and cost-effective wheel especially for new energy vehicles feels like a great place to make a difference.”
The funding from the Niche Vehicle Network will cover 50% of the project costs with the remainder coming out of the consortium’s own resources.