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Metal/Plastic Car Wheel Boosts MPG

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GTOlover
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Ford F150 also
GTOlover   2/8/2013 4:03:30 PM
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I also think the F150 was shown with an aerodynamic wheel that also incorporated shutters to close up the slots at high speeds and open for slow speeds (to provide adequete brake cooling).

I think it was also eVOLVE wheel design.

GTOlover
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Re: Ford F150 also
GTOlover   2/11/2013 10:51:31 AM
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Here is the F 150 wheel:

http://www.sae.org/mags/aei/power/11731

It is the same manufacturer as the Focus wheel described here at DN.

Charles Murray
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Huge improvement
Charles Murray   2/8/2013 6:00:09 PM
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An improvement of 1.1 mpg is huge. Automotive engineers spend months and months just trying to find a few tenths of a mile-per-gallon. If these third party tests are right and if automakers find this to be economically feasible for production, then this is a gigantic step forward.  

tekochip
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Re: Huge improvement
tekochip   2/9/2013 10:05:50 AM
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I'm really surprised, I would have guessed it was all about the rotating mass.  I never would have thought that the drag from the wheel would make such a difference.


sensor pro
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Re: Huge improvement
sensor pro   2/9/2013 11:10:26 PM
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Me too. I would never think that. In my opinion if weight is the problem, there are other items thay can make lighter, like frame, seats, booth hoods, etc....

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Huge improvement
Ann R. Thryft   2/12/2013 11:01:06 AM
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As Lacks said in the story, it's not just lighter weight, but also better aerodynamics that result in the 1.1 MPG improvement, as shown by the third-party tests.

Charles Murray
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Re: Huge improvement
Charles Murray   2/13/2013 1:44:57 PM
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You're right, sensor_pro, and all of the automakers are already doing everything you mentioned here and more. Automotive engineers are looking at everything in an effort to get to 54.5 in the next 12 years. If they could find about 25 more things that improve mpg like this does, they'd be on the verge of success. The big question, though, is how much will all of these improvements cost? If we have to load the vehicle with composites and other lightweight materials, and the cost gets driven up by a factor of two or more, they're going to find a lot of consumers holding onto their old cars.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Huge improvement
Ann R. Thryft   2/11/2013 8:02:21 PM
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tekochip, one of the things that made me want to write about this wheel design was the fact that in other stories about alternative wheel materials some have commented about how much aerodynamics, as well as less weight from lighter materials, could add up to better performance.



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Huge improvement
Ann R. Thryft   2/11/2013 7:56:06 PM
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Thanks for weighing in, Chuck. The amount of MPG saved is one of the main things that attracted me to write about this. Also the fact that these guys have done their homework with 3rd-party testing, and at the same facilities, as automotive OEMs.



Gorski
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Metal/Plastic car wheels
Gorski   2/9/2013 3:19:16 PM
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I think this wheel is a small step in the right direction. What would make a bigger impact is using this technology to make automobile bodies and large internal components,aka seats. lighter. The wheel weight reduction is too small an increment of automobile weight.

GORSKI PE

Gorski
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Metal/Plastic car wheels
Gorski   2/9/2013 3:19:16 PM
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I think this wheel is a small step in the right direction. What would make a bigger impact is using this technology to make automobile bodies and large internal components,aka seats. lighter. The wheel weight reduction is too small an increment of automobile weight.

GORSKI PE

Tim
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Cost Benefit
Tim   2/10/2013 7:46:25 PM
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If I read the article correctly, the metal/plastic wheel is about 4 pounds less than the standard wheel. For this weight reduction, is there a cost savings or is the main benefit the MPG increase?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cost Benefit
Ann R. Thryft   2/11/2013 8:14:04 PM
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The whole point is the 1.1 MPG saved. There are no other wheels that can do that, so a monetary cost savings comparing this wheel to others that can't save 1.1 MPG wouldn't be very useful.

ChrisP
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Re: Cost Benefit
ChrisP   2/11/2013 9:40:12 PM
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I don't believe you know enough about wheel aerodynamics to make that statement.  I don't believe that Ford couldn't make that same wheel out of aluminum.  There are certainly wheels that are even more aerodynamic. Despite their claims car companies are not really interested in aerodynamics otherwise they would make them aerodynamic.  Cars today are still far worse drag wise than the cars like the Jaray in the 1930's.  Car companies are intrested in making profits these days not selling transportation. 





Eric75
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I thought plastic wheel dressings were gone in the 90s
Eric75   2/11/2013 9:44:34 AM
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Unsprung mass is a big deal for vehicle performance although not necessarily fuel economy. Reduced rotating inertia probably has an impact on city driving more than taking weight out of the seat frames. I wonder how much the plastic is about appearance rather than aerodynamics. Wheels take a beating, and I know they will look pretty bad by the time I buy a 2014 focus in the year 2025.

RaceCarBuilder
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New design using Old Ideas
RaceCarBuilder   2/11/2013 10:50:00 AM
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The three-piece modular wheel is even lighter. A 15" dia 10" wide Jongbloed wheel from the mid- '70s weighed 14 lbs. It used two spun aluminum wheel halfs and a forged magnesium center. This was a racing wheel so it was plenty strong but it was difficult to maintain-- dogs would come from adjacent counties to pee on mag wheels!

As far as aerodynamics are concerned, Bonneville racers have used "Moon Discs" since the '50s to improve the rotating and wind resistance of their wheels. These are spun aluminum discs that cover the center of a standard steel wheel. They are still used in land speed racing. They do not allow brake cooling air circulation, however.

Instead of such a complex wheel structure as this new wheel design, why not just mould that design with a carbon fiber reinforced polymer?

Deja vu all over again.

Elizabeth M
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News to me
Elizabeth M   2/11/2013 11:55:53 AM
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Thanks for covering this, Ann. While power-train and alternative fuel research is well-known and well-covered, I had no idea research into wheels also was being done to boost MPG on automobiles. It's quite interesting to read about and I am consistently impressed by the multifaceted work designers and engineers are doing.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: News to me
Ann R. Thryft   2/12/2013 10:56:05 AM
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Elizabeth, the company said that working on wheels to improve MPG is a relatively new effort in the industry.



Rigby5
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Re: News to me
Rigby5   2/12/2013 11:16:48 AM
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While I can see that wheels can be made lighter and save gas, this does not seem like such a serious attempt.  To reduce drag as much as possible, the wheel should really have no holes or ridges at all.  In fact instead of a Moon, the wheel should be dished in order to smoothen linear air flow.  Brake cooling should be air from below the car being ducted behind the wheel.  In fact, the whole bottom of the car should be smooth, totally unlike what they do now. 

So I can't really take this article that seriously, because obviously car makers and buyers really don't care.  Otherwise they would have addressed these more glaring issues.  Instead, the main factor for wheels must be cosmetic, with wheels having larger and larger openings these days, when they really should have no openings at all.  The trouble is the customers are ignorant and the makers don't want to educate them. 

And what I would really like to see is a comparison with all plastic wheels, such as fiberglass or graphite composite.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: News to me
Ann R. Thryft   2/12/2013 4:31:08 PM
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Rigby5, I've asked the company to address some of the issues raised in the comments here. Meanwhile, regarding holes, it's my understanding that these were in fact reduced in this wheel in part by the plastic fill and in part by the redesign. Also, this is a cutaway diagram, so much of the apparent " holes" on the right are not actually there in the finished wheel.

Elizabeth M
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Re: News to me
Elizabeth M   2/12/2013 2:23:58 PM
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Ah, I see...well as always you are on the cutting edge of coverage, Ann. I should have known! :) In all seriousness, I do like the way designers are thinking outside of the box (or in this case, the power train) to come up with new ways to be more fuel efficient and economical.

Rigby5
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Way too much waste
Rigby5   2/11/2013 3:38:37 PM
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While lighter wheels are nice, what I would prefer to see instead is for cars to get rid of all the electric motors for seats, door locks, windows, heat controls, etc.

Manual operations not only weight far less, but are far more reliable and cheaper to maintain.  If customers were actually told that things like keyless entry and remote start required leaving radio receivers on all the time, I doubt anyone would actually still want these silly features.

William K.
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Re: Way too much waste
William K.   2/11/2013 9:01:53 PM
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Not only is remote start a silly accessory, it is a source that delivers 100% on pollution, since the car warming up driverless for half an hour, or even just 15 minutes is just burning fuel delivering no travel value at all. All the warmup time the engine really needs is the time that it takes me to fasten my seatbelt after starting the engine.

Thinking_J
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always a compromise.....
Thinking_J   2/11/2013 5:02:36 PM
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The compromise: reduced cross flow = less cooling of brakes.

On most consumer cars the impact would likely be minimal.

On my car.. well, let's just say I like "spirited" driving on mountain roads.

At "Indy" a number of years ago.... they were noting other trade offs relating to the wheel design. Specifically the affect on handling at high speeds when the wheel was optimized for minimal drag, the wheels would start acting like forward "rudders" during high speed turns - making suspension tuning kinda weird.

 

 

bobjengr
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METAL/PLASTIC WHEELS
bobjengr   2/11/2013 6:12:23 PM
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Excellent Post--I think this is the way highway mileage improvement will occur-in an incremental fashion.  I know from previous posts, automotive companies are working on many projects to meet the new Federal guidelines coming quickly.  I have been following with great interest materials that are lighter yet as strong as ones now being used.  I feel the metal/plastic wheels represent a great breakthrough. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: METAL/PLASTIC WHEELS
Ann R. Thryft   2/12/2013 4:59:57 PM
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bobjengr, I agree about incremental developments. While it's easy to wish we could just figure out and execute/implement everything all at once, real life tends not to work that way.

William K.
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Metal and plastic wheel
William K.   2/11/2013 9:12:09 PM
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This new wheel design looks like it keeps the same flaw that most aluminum wheels carry, which is that they corrode and develop rim leaks. That may not be a problem in south cal, but here in Michigan there are tons of salt dumped at the first hint of snow, and it is far worse then the navy salt-spray test could dream of being. So  wheel with a good plastic in the seal area would be an improvement indeed. I really find it hard to believe that the streamlining gives a 1.1MPG improvement, or even a 1.1% improvement, unless it is being compared to the most non-aerodynamic design made. 

One other question is about how the plastic portion holds up with the fairly common problem of disk brakes binding and getting really hot. That happens a bit with some Chrysler product vehicles, I have found. They knew about that problem in 1976, they have not solved it by 2005. Reduced it some, but not solved.

William K.
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Metal and plastic wheel
William K.   2/11/2013 9:12:33 PM
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This new wheel design looks like it keeps the same flaw that most aluminum wheels carry, which is that they corrode and develop rim leaks. That may not be a problem in south cal, but here in Michigan there are tons of salt dumped at the first hint of snow, and it is far worse then the navy salt-spray test could dream of being. So  wheel with a good plastic in the seal area would be an improvement indeed. I really find it hard to believe that the streamlining gives a 1.1MPG improvement, or even a 1.1% improvement, unless it is being compared to the most non-aerodynamic design made. 

One other question is about how the plastic portion holds up with the fairly common problem of disk brakes binding and getting really hot. That happens a bit with some Chrysler product vehicles, I have found. They knew about that problem in 1976, they have not solved it by 2005. Reduced it some, but not solved.

evolvewheel
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Iron
Information on eVOLVE hybrid wheel...
evolvewheel   2/14/2013 9:40:49 PM
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Our experience is that fuel efficiency related to automotive wheels is a relatively unexplored area of technology, although efforts have been focused on mass and inertia...as well as aerodynamics.  The eVOLVE hybrid wheel is one of the first programs to focus on good wheel design from a structural and aerodynamic perspective, relative to the impact on fuel economy itself.  Previously, most efforts considered either mass or aerodynamics seperately and usually for some attribute other than fuel economy.  We believe the eVOLVE philosophy will greatly assist the OEM's in their efforts to improve fuel economy without sacrificing great design.  The results and video showing the coast down and wind tunnel testing are available at www.evolvehybrid.com

evolvewheel
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Iron
Information on eVOLVE hybrid wheel Part 2
evolvewheel   2/14/2013 9:42:23 PM
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The Lacks composite wheel system has been proven with over 24 million wheel assemblies delivered to OEM's globally over the past 15 years.  There have been virtually no field issues due to excessive brake heats from disc or drum brake systems.  We routinely test our Chromtec wheels on-vehicle through the Death Valley Brake Fluid Boil protocols and also through similar on-vehicle high brake heat exposure testing through the Gros-Glockner drive route in Europe.  These tests are used by most of the global OEM's to evaluate wheel products and technologies for durability and reliability.  The Lacks composite is approved for virtually all production vehicle applications and its designs are intended to provide both sufficient cooling to the brake system and optimized weight and aerodynamic performance to the overall vehicle system itself...achieved through great design.

evolvewheel
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eVOLVE hybrid wheel philosophy
evolvewheel   2/14/2013 9:44:33 PM
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Our testing shows that completely covering the wheel achieves better aerodynamics, that said cooling and design is compromised so it is not a realistic option. Wheels are as emotional as they are functional – especially considering the side on visual impact of the vehicle. The eVOLVE hybrid wheel philosophy is to balance, weight, aerodynamics, design and finishes all at the same time. We believe composite wheel technology provides the ultimate method to balance all attributes as best possible.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: eVOLVE hybrid wheel philosophy
Ann R. Thryft   2/19/2013 3:12:19 PM
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Thanks to Lacks (James, I believe that's you commenting here) for weighing in on the testing issues, as well as giving us more info on the design tradeoffs between aerodynamics, cooling and esthetics issues.

evolvewheel
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Re: eVOLVE hybrid wheel philosophy
evolvewheel   2/19/2013 3:19:25 PM
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Thank you Ann for inviting us to provide additional information here.  There have been some excellent and insightful comments made by the readers and clarification is always good for both parties.  If further information is required, your readers can visit us at www.evolvehybrid.com or stop by booth 325 at the upcoming SAE World Congress in Detroit, April 16-18 for a first hand look at the eVOLVE hybrid wheel. 

cookiejar
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Gold
drag and weight
cookiejar   2/20/2013 10:01:01 AM
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The Citroen SM, introduced in 1972 had composite wheels as an option, but they really didn't catch on.  Citroen was also known for its low drag aerodynamic designs tested in its wind tunnel that had a moving conveyor belt, as they maintained that the interface between the car bottom and the road had the greatest wind shear and hence presented the greatest drag.  All Citroens, including the ugly 2CV had very smooth bellies.

If weight is important in the wheel tire assembly, then perhaps tire weight deserves another look.  I've noticed incredible weight differences between different tires of the same size.  I've also noticed that the heavier tires really bounce when dropped.  Unsprung weight has significant effects on handling on uneven surfaces as well as ride.

The latest fashion for low profile tires reduces the amount of rubber and air cushion and increase the amount of rim.

So many variables!

cookiejar
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Re: drag and weight
cookiejar   2/20/2013 10:29:57 AM
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Speaking of aerodynamics, both the Citroen SM and the (1954 - 1972) DS featured full and smooth wheel covers.  Brake cooling was by separate ducts to inboard transaxle mounted disc brakes.  Brake fade was unmeasrable.  Interestingly, with front wheel drive, the very reliable CV drive shafts took the full force of braking - much higher than engine output.  These FWD transaxles and components were a favorite of formula 1 cars for many years when used in the rear.

I find the engineering of Citroen awe inspiring because they certainly marched to a different drummer well ahead of the mob.  The Citroen DS, which has more leg and head room than my 4050 lb Buick Lucerne weighed in at an amazing 2700 lbs.  The current Fiat 500 weighs in at 2600 lbs.  With its self adjusting air/hydraulic suspension, the DS rode perfectly under all loads, superior to my 2007 Lucerne CXS's magnetic ride. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: drag and weight
Ann R. Thryft   2/20/2013 12:54:39 PM
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cookiejar, I had a similar thought when researching this article--how incredibly complex the process is of analyzing all the variables and how they interact. Thanks for the input on the Citroen wheels. Interesting to know that such design considerations--aerodynamics and materials--were being looked at back then. I wonder if that's the Citroen model my husband and I rented in France in 1974.

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