The world’s first commercially-viable, low-cost, lightweight, all-composite wheel for electric and driverless cars could soon be a reality following a grant funding of £135,500.
The ACRIM (All Composite Reduced Inertia Modular Wheels) wheel project, which is being developed by a consortium of UK composite experts comprising Carbon ThreeSixty, Far UK and Bitrez Ltd, won the funding after entering the Niche Vehicle Network competition.
Forecast to be 4kg lighter than a generic 8kg 15-inch wheel, the all-composite wheel is predicted to provide efficiency gains of up to 10%, representing a 5% fuel saving or a 5% CO2 reduction when retrofitted to a petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle.
Over the next six months, the consortium – each of whom has an impressive automotive pedigree – will use the funding to move the all-composite wheel from proof of concept through to demonstration and production readiness.
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.
“Despite SMEs being the engine room for innovation within the UK, we often struggle to access the finance required to exploit our ideas. Without funding from the Niche Vehicle Network this project would not have got off the ground,” said Lead project partner, Edward Allnutt, Managing Director at Carbon ThreeSixty, which specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced composite structures.