There is a lot more to Carbon Fiber wheels than just cool looks and lightweight. We met up with Carbon Revolution at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to learn about their game-changing technology and were blown away how important wheels are to the performance of a car, affecting everything from steering feel to overall grip and noise/vibration/harshness (NVH). We then conducted a proper back-to-back test of their CR-9 carbon wheels against high-end OEM aluminum wheels on a $100K+ sports car to see what real-world performance and lap time improvements can be achieved from carbon fiber wheels.
Carbon fiber is an incredible material. Not only for its extremely high tensile strength, stiffness, and low weight of the carbon fibers, but because of the endless possibilities those fibers can be weaved and positioned to specifically engineer strength and stiffness within a component in ways that are impossible with traditional materials.
What does this mean when applied to wheels? Not only can a carbon fiber wheel be made lighter and stronger than traditional forged aluminum wheels, but they can be substantially stiffer and make for a quieter ride, among other advantages. We learned that ultra-lightweight aluminum wheels can flex and lose over 1-degree of camber for every cornering G-force the car can generate.
From our testing, a high-end OEM aluminum wheel severely blistered the outer edge of the tire due to the wheel flexing and a lack of static camber. Meanwhile the extremely stiff Carbon Revolution CR-9 had significantly better tire wear, zero blistering, and was consistently faster on track. Because of this stiffness, carbon wheels can run less static camber than aluminum wheels. This improves braking, acceleration, and consistency.
Carbon Revolution is the world-leader in producing carbon fiber wheels and the first company to supply carbon wheels on a mass-produced OEM application. They have successfully merged aerospace processes and technology with the efficient process controls of high-volume automotive manufacturing to exceed global OEM quality and performance standards.
Created from an independent R&D program that provides technology mentoring to Formula SAE teams, the first composite wheel appeared in 2004 on F-SAE cars and made their way to OEM applications in 2016.
Carbon fiber wheels represent a paradigm-shift in performance and the physical capability of what a wheel can do because of carbon fiber’s versatility, durability, and strength-to-weight ratio exceeds what is possible with metals. While forged aluminum wheels have been the gold standard for decades, carbon fiber has significant advantages over aluminum and even magnesium wheels.
We are now going to dive into the technology that is incorporated into carbon fiber wheels, how that technology far surpasses what aluminum is capable of, and learn more about the importance wheels play on everything from performance to ride and handling. We will then go over data from a proper back-to-back test of high end OEM Aluminum wheels vs Carbon Revolution’s carbon fiber wheels.
This is a very technical article and I may lose a lot of you. If that’s the case be sure to thoroughly read “Camber Compliance” on page 7.
Table of Contents:
Page 1 – Intro
Page 2 – Carbon Fiber Wheels used by OEMs
Page 3 – Benefits of Carbon: Lightweight – Rotational Inertia
Page 4 – Benefits of Carbon: Lightweight – Gyroscopic Effect
Page 5 – Benefits of Carbon: Strength
Page 6 – Benefits of Carbon: Stiffness
Page 7 – Benefits of Carbon: Stiffness Continued – Camber Compliance* (Must-Read)
Page 8 – Benefits of Carbon: Durability, NVH & Cost.
Page 9– Important Factors for wheels on Racecars & Track Test Procedure
Page 10 – Wheel Weights, On-Track Testing, Data/Laptime/Tire Analysis, and Conclusion