A wheel made of metal and plastic designed to fit the 2012 MYFord Focus SE has shown an increase of 1.1 MPG highway in third-party tests, compared to the car's standard production wheel. That's comparable to MPG improvements made by some low-roll tires.
Lacks Wheel Trim Systems' eVOLVE Hybrid Wheel mixes an aluminum structure with a foam filling and a plastic coating. The structure is made of A356-T6 low-pressure cast aluminum alloy, James Ardern, director of business development, told Design News. This is the same aluminum grade, and manufactured by the same low pressure cast process, as the Ford Focus BM5J-1007-DB production wheel. The wheel's outer shell is made of a high-impact polycarbonate/ABS composite blend, which allows a more aerodynamic design, Ardern told us. Between the outer shell and the five-spoke aluminum structure is a high-density, two-part urethane foam, instead of more aluminum.
The eVOLVE Hybrid Wheel made of metal and plastic, designed for the 2012 MYFord Focus SE, has shown an increase of 1.1 MPG highway in third-party tests, compared to the car's standard production wheel. (Source: Lacks Wheel Trim Systems)
Lacks tested its eVOLVE Hybrid Wheel, as well as two other wheels, on a North American 2012 MYFord Focus SE on the same day and the same test track. The other two wheels were the eVOLVE wheel's backbone, without its foam filling or coating, and the Ford Focus production wheel. All three are the same dimensions: 17 inch x 7 inch x 50 mm offset. The production wheel weighs 23.7 lb; the backbone alone weighs 17.4 lb, and the complete eVOLVE Hybrid Wheel, including backbone, foam, and composite coating, weighs 19.2 lb.
On-vehicle fuel economy testing was done to EPA standard SAE J2263 by third-party testing facility Roush Emissions Laboratory, which does the same EPA drive cycles for automotive OEMs. The backbone showed some improvement over the production wheel's fuel efficiency. "But it was less of a difference: increases of 0.1 MPG city and 0.5 MPG highway," said Ardern. Using the complete eVOLVE wheel, city improvement was 0.4 MPG, and highway, 1.1 MPG.
Weight reduction alone isn't enough to achieve those results. The other main factor is the eVOLVE wheel's improved aerodynamics. Lacks performed wind tunnel testing of several hybrid wheel designs at third-party aerodynamics testing facility Aerodyn, a NASCAR lab. Lacks then selected the best performing wheel design as the eVOLVE Hybrid Wheel for further testing, Ardern told us.
Compared to the Ford Focus production wheel, in static and rotating aerodynamics testing done to EPA standard SAE J2264 the winning eVOLVE wheel design had an overall vehicle drag coefficient improvement of nine counts. "The reduction of aero drag as well as a reduction in aero horsepower both contribute to the optimized aerodynamic profile, and ultimately to fuel economy performance," said Ardern.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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