Stronger Aluminum Alloy Lightens Heavy Truck Wheels

Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products has introduced a forged aluminum wheel that it calls the world's lightest wheel for heavy-duty trucks. The Ultra One wheel is just over half the weight of an equivalent-sized steel wheel, according to Alcoa, which achieved this breakthrough with a wheel alloy it recently invented.

Like other transportation industries we've discussed, the commercial heavy trucking industry has been catching up to passenger cars in its efforts to reduce weight and emissions. Heavy-duty truck operators have been converting their fleets to aluminum wheels for some time.

At 40 pounds each, the Ultra One wheels weigh five pounds less than any other Alcoa heavy-duty truck wheel. They are 47% lighter than equivalent-sized steel wheels and are available in the standard size used in commercial heavy-duty transportation (22.5 x 8.25 inches). Alcoa rolled them out last week at the Mid-America Trucking show in Louisville, Ken.

Replacing steel wheels with aluminum ones can help a big rig shed several hundred pounds, which has multiple benefits. Aside from lowering fuel consumption (which lowers emissions), the lighter wheels help offset the weight a truck gains from the pollution control equipment it must carry to satisfy federal emission standards. The reduced weight can also make it possible for trucks to carry more (or heavier) goods. Because the new wheels are corrosion resistant and don't need to be stripped and repainted, Alcoa said, their maintenance and operating costs are lower. You can access an Ultra One Wheel data sheet here.

To make the new wheels lighter and stronger, technicians at the Alcoa Technical Center invented the MagnaForce wheel alloy. When the company introduced MagnaForce in October after two years of development and testing, it called the material the first new aluminum alloy for wheels since 1968, when the company invented the 6061 alloy for forged aluminum wheels. The new alloy is about 17% stronger on average than Alcoa's 6061 alloy, which has been the industry standard for forged aluminum wheels.

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