New Ford Shelby Mustang Boasts the First Mass Produced Carbon Fiber Wheels
Carbon Fiber Wheels Give a Weight and Performance Advantage.
The use of carbon fiber wheels on performance vehicles isn’t something new. For many years now, a company based in Australia called Carbon Revolution has been involved in the research, development, and manufacture of wheels made from carbon fiber for use in BMW, Audi, McLaren, and Porsche’s cars.
Up until recently though, these wheels were only available in low volumes for supercars like the BMW M3 and Audi R8 or as high-end aftermarket parts. Fortunately, Ford was looking for a way to improve its new Shelby GT350R Mustang’s track-worthy performance and ended up partnering with the Australian company to develop the first mass produced carbon fiber wheels in the industry. Why is it big deal to have a car that has wheels made of carbon fiber though?
Benefits of Carbon Fiber
Since carbon fiber is lighter than steel or aluminum, a car with carbon fiber wheels will have a drastically reduced curb weight which results in better performance and handling. Not only do these types of wheels allow vehicles to have better response times with regard to driver input, they also help improve acceleration and deceleration. These advantages are extremely important for a car like the Shelby GT350R which was designed by Ford to have ultra-high performance regardless if it was on the track or on the road. All the performance advantages of having carbon fiber wheels also results in reduced fuel consumption. Much has been said about hybrids being more fuel efficient, but it’s also possible to get similar levels of efficiency with ICEs without having to sacrifice performance.
Making the carbon fiber wheels for the Shelby GT350R Mustang involved the development of new standards and benchmarks to ensure performance and passenger safety. Carbon Revolution knew that it had to change how it usually produced its wheels to be able to meet Ford’s demands for its most powerful performance vehicle to date. The manufacturing process starts with the making of the wheel’s internal carbon structure by arraying carbon strands that have been precisely manufactured for just this purpose on to woven fabrics. After this initial arrangement, these materials are then molded using Carbon Revolution’s proprietary aerospace manufacturing techniques. Together with the materials inside the mold is an RFID that is used to identify the wheel later on during the testing and quality assurance phase. After the RFID is placed and the structure begins to resemble a wheel, resin is then added to prepare it for high temperature curing.
Testing and Quality Assurance
After the curing process, Carbon Revolution has to make sure that the resulting one-piece wheel is durable enough to be able to withstand extreme heat, chemical and UV exposure, as well as curb strikes. With its thermal barrier coating system, the company was able to come up with a means to reinforce certain areas of the wheel’s carbon fiber resin and thereby shielding it from structural damage caused by exposure to too much heat during braking. Every wheel that is produced also has to pass through 61 individual checks as well as get analyzed using an imaging process called 3D computerized tomography. A total of 18000 x-ray images are taken of the wheel using this process to guarantee that it doesn’t have any structural weaknesses. A car as powerful as the Shelby GT350R needs an equally reliable and durable carbon fiber wheel to carry it.