A project to develop what is said to be the world’s first commercially viable, low cost, lightweight, all composite wheel for niche and electric vehicle applications has reached the pilot production stage.
Composites companies Carbon ThreeSixty, Far-UK, Composite Integration, CNC Robotics and Bitrez Ltd say that they have developed and validated the modular wheels and next plan to manufacture of fifty wheels by the end of the year.
They also plan to supply three full vehicle sets for testing on the MOTIV mobility vehicle and two sets of overmolded resin transfer molding (RTM) wheels qualification testing.
According to the companies, the new wheel could have half the weight of a traditional part, which would deliver 5% fuel savings or a 5% CO2 reduction when retrofitted to a petrol or diesel fuelled vehicle.
They next plan to decrease manufacturing cost and cycle time by processing a three-component epoxy resin system with an in-mold release agent, using piston pump technology to deliver repeatable and better lamination through increased control and monitoring of the preconditioning of resin prior to injection (metering, mixing, pre-heating and degassing) and developing mold pressure closed loop control system to improve yield.
The consortium also wants to test if robotic machining can be sufficiently accurate and repeatable for secondary machining and final trimming.