It depends on what “better” is when comparing carbon fiber wheels to aluminum versions. There are some pluses and minuses for both. But the cost is the one thing that is hard to reckon with. As you know, carbon fiber wheels, though extremely light, are also extremely expensive. The front-wheel replacements for the Ford Mustang run almost $8,000. And these wheels are probably the most “mass-produced” of this segment available today.
How much are carbon fiber wheels?
Sets of carbon fiber wheels at the bare minimum are $12,000 and shoot up from there. That’s a lot of money for some weight savings. If you’re racing, the advantages of reducing race car weight and unsprung mass are impressive. But on city streets and highways, many have reservations.
Why the reservations? Because these wheels are brittle. They have the potential to crack impacting potholes and curbs. We don’t mean to do it, but sometimes it just happens.
Is there an advantage to aluminum wheels?
Aluminum, on the other hand, has some give. Repairs can sometimes be made for cracks and damage are too extensive. That, or you replace them. But the costs for either are much less than replacing a broken carbon fiber version.
Wheel companies like Carbon Revolution, say we’re on the cusp of greatly reduced prices. Carbon Revolution manufactures the carbon fiber wheels for Ferrari, Porsche, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, and Z06 Corvette. It sees the advancement of EVs as a perfect avenue to open up.
What would these types of wheels add to electric vehicles?
That’s because shaving weight greatly increases range, something all EV manufacturers are trying to do. It can also reduce energy consumption for shipping and fleets. And wheel weight savings has a multiplier effect. Less mass means quicker takeoffs and faster deceleration. But again, do those savings justify the large dollar wheels?
In North America, around 50,000 carbon wheels are said to be in circulation, according to Carbon Revolution. And while those sold by the OEs have their rigorous stamp of approval, the cars they roll on see limited miles, for the most part. But if the wheels had any shortcomings, the OEs would never have given them their blessing.
The main issues that keep them from becoming mainstream
Now, the main issues impeding the acceptance of them, besides cost, public perception, and production. As demand increases, prices should fall. General acceptance will come when prices hit around $2,000 a set.
Public perception takes time to change. We’ve all seen those images on social media of wheels that have cracked or broken apart. They’re rare incidents, but those images still stick in our minds. But so do those images of EVs on fire, and that seems to have hurt sales very limitedly.
So the main advantage over alloy wheels is weight and aerodynamics. Hollow wheels with thin wall spokes and aerodynamically designed are the advantages that will launch them into the mainstream at some point. Will it be five years from now, or 25?
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