Carbon Revolution wheels are a revelation



One of the highlights of the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the availability of lightweight carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution, as we’ve seen previously on cars like the Ford Mustang GT350 and GT500 and Top 8 models. of Ferrari.

These wheels save 41 lbs. of car weight, which is a lot for any component. Because this weight is removed from the car’s unsprung mass and its rotational inertia, the effect is transformative.

Corvette Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter reports that replacing the Corvette’s excellent forged aluminum wheels with the Carbon Revolution wheels slashed his lap times by 1.5 seconds when running a track with rounds of about 2 minutes. That’s a 1.25% improvement in speed without changing any other part of the car, which on the race track is a valuable and almost mind-boggling gain.

That advantage is enough to make the price of $12,000 for the wheels in clear finish or $10,000 in “carbon flash” black paint seem reasonable. Especially considering that the painted stripes on the Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 were $10,000 over the cost of the adhesive vinyl strips, and there was overwhelming demand from those customers for the painted stripes.

But that cost should come down over time as manufacturing processes become faster and more automated, reports Ashley Denmead, founder and CTO of Carbon Revolution. “The goal is for the price to come down,” he said in an interview at the Corvette Z06’s press launch.

This is a challenge, because while the wheel incorporates a single carbon fiber casting, the complete finished wheel is made up of hundreds of components. “It’s really a 200-piece 3D puzzle that goes into the wheel,” Denmead said.

Image courtesy of Dan CarneyIMG_1678.jpg

The cutaway image of a wheel from the side reveals the white filler material in the spoke area which is bridged by a carbon fiber “ski jumper”. The white horizontal stripe across the image is the ceramic heat-resistant coating on the inside of the rim. And the dark black embedded in the gray cut fiber area is part of a carbon fiber band that wraps around the aluminum hub for added strength and stability.

A surprising detail is the fact that the wheels’ aluminum hubs are two halves that are pressed into the molded carbon fiber. They are not secured by any additional means, as the clamping forces when bolting the wheel to the car strengthen the assembly.

One aspect of the wheels that is unique to the Corvette is the application of a white ceramic coating to the inside of the wheel to reject the heat from the monstrous Brembo brakes. It is applied by a plasma gun spraying a liquefied ceramic/aluminum mixture. It solidifies to a coarse finish whose porosity enhances the insulating properties of the layer, while its white color helps to reflect radiated heat.

The Corvette wheels represent the culmination of years of work, Denmead said. “It took us five years to get here,” he recalls. “It’s great to get here.”

It’s no surprise that there’s plenty of potential mass to trim in the Z06’s gigantic 20-inch x 10-inch front and 21-inch x 13-inch rear wheels. Their size also created an opportunity for innovation, as Denmead proudly highlighted some technical features visible in a cutaway wheel that show off the internal construction.

The Corvette’s wheels are called a “hollow-spoke” design, but the spokes aren’t actually hollow. They are filled with lightweight foam and short, chopped fibers that are strategically used to fill the gap. But inside that, for the Corvette, is a diagonal strand of reinforcing carbon fiber that Carbon Revolution engineers have dubbed “the ski jump.”

Image courtesy of Dan CarneyIMG_1652.jpg

The size of a single wheel for the Corvette Z06 is staggering.

“We found it added a lot because the radius is so wide,” Denmead explained.

While the prodigious size of the Corvette’s wheels and the equally prodigious demands placed on the high performance car make super sports cars seem like an obvious application for Carbon Revolution’s carbon fiber wheels, electric cars will also benefit. the lightness of the wheels, according to Denmead.

“We are now working on products that have nothing to do with lap times,” he said. “Carbon fiber is an efficient technology,” he said. “If you reduce losses, it makes sense that you increase range.”
Additionally, the heavy weight of electric vehicles is pushing automakers to reduce mass wherever they can. “Customers have weight classification issues,” Denmead said. The goal is to reduce the price of carbon wheels to make them ubiquitous for electric vehicles that need longer range.

Expanding Carbon Revolution production outside of Australia will be one step that will contribute to this and help reduce the risk of future supply disruptions. “Eventually we will manufacture closer than Australia,” he said.

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