I first heard about Carbon Revolution last year when they were featured in an article in the Australian Financial Review. At that time they were looking at a possible Initial Public Offering and they had recently opened a new factory in Geelong near Melbourne. They are a true success story in the automotive industry from Australia – at a time when the main manufacturers have closed their assembly plants and the suppliers are struggling or going to the wall.
Like many companies, Carbon Revolution was born out of research and development for technologies and in their case, within the Formula SAE competition. This is a category founded by the Society of Automotive Engineers (hence the SAE) and was created to teach students real world design and engineering skills. There are now several competitions running across the globe, expanding the reach for students to take part. Carbon Revolution were helping university teams create race cars that (naturally) went quicker!
One of the biggest areas of saving of the unsprung weight of a car are the wheels – get them lighter and stronger and you have a significant saving in the overall weight of the vehicle. Carbon Revolution came out of the theory of lightweight design and produced their first wheels for the racing category in 2004. However creating wheels for racing cars is just one marketplace and the company wanted to hit the OEM market as that was bigger and their products could be used by many more drivers.
That meant commercialising the technology and manufacturing processes such that the manufacturers would consider their product as world class. This was clearly a labour of love for the team and they achieved their goals by 2013 when they received accreditation against global OEM standards. This in turn attracted the Australian Government who provided funding under their New Car Plan at that time.
So what is so special about their product? It is the world’s only one piece carbon fibre wheel! The company says that their product is 13 times stronger and 40% lighter than a comparable aluminium wheel and has enough carbon fibre threads to circle the world twice – what a stat!
For road cars, the company can supply wheels for selected models from Audi, BMW, Corvette, Lamborghini, McLaren, Nissan and Porsche – although I’m sure they’ll make a set for you if you have another steed! They are also supplied to Ford for the Shelby Mustang GT350.
The aftermarket business for high end sports cars is an exciting one because lightweight wheels help with the whole dynamics of a car. There is less weight for the motor to push, the car is lighter so the brakes should work better and the suspension should also work better with less weight to deal with. They are an integral part of the process to lighten any car for higher performance.
Despite being away from the main auto industry centres: Detroit, Coventry, Munich or Tokyo for example, Carbon Revolution have been able to develop a world class product. I would recommend checking out their website and to follow them on social media to keep up to date with their news and successes.