GREEN CAR INNOVATION FUND: Benefits go round for revolutionary carbon fibre wheel
Victorian business CFusion says it will manufacture the world's first automobile wheel made from a single piece of carbon fibre.
The wheels deliver significant fuel savings, and are much stronger than conventional aluminium wheels, despite being 50 per cent lighter. They also provide improved acceleration, braking, suspension and cornering.
CFusion - trading as Carbon Revolution - is commercialising the wheel, with help from the Australian Government's Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF).
CFusion was awarded $1,393,130 in 2011 from the GCIF to help complete product and process validation work ahead of full commercialisation.
This included high-level testing in Germany with the world renowned Fraunhofer Institute, as well as process development and design activities to establish a manufacturing facility
Executive Chairman Jake Dingle says the company will start manufacturing the wheels in 2012, and at full capacity the new facility will produce 250,000 wheels a year.
"We will also be employing 180-200 skilled workers in this new high-tech manufacturing industry. This is a good news story for Australia," Jake said.
"The next step after that will be to build production facilities that are capable of producing two million wheels a year, which is the typical scale of conventional aluminium wheel manufacturing plants around the world.
"While our carbon fibre wheels will initially be used in more premium vehicles, variants of the technology are destined for the mass car market. Eventually they will be used widely in mainstream cars all over the world because they are very economical. That will provide significant greenhouse gas savings because they are significantly more fuel efficient."
The company is confident that advanced manufacturing technology and scale will ensure that their wheels are economically competitive with aluminium wheels.
In 2011 CFusion tested the wheels at the Fraunhofer research facilities in Frankfurt, Germany, and found they are superior to aluminium wheels from a durability and an impact resistance perspective. Modelling has confirmed a minimum fuel saving of 3 per cent, with 8 per cent possible with full integration to vehicles.
The company is now working with some of the world's largest car manufacturers to conduct in-house testing and validation of the wheels, and based on the testing already performed with Fraunhofer, they exceed the manufacturer's requirements.
Jake says the GCIF grant has been "absolutely critical" for getting the wheel to the point of commercialisation.
"The grant has enabled us to bring people with critical skills into the company," Jake said. "We have also been able to build and test numerous prototypes and purchase plant and equipment, all of which will enable us to start manufacturing in 2012. The funding has significantly accelerated commercialisation activities."
The wheel has been in development for over seven years, with much of the initial research and design undertaken in partnership with Deakin University.
The early concept development activities involved academics and students participating in the global university car design program - Formula SAE.
Deakin University's Institute for Technology Research and Innovation has been a key technology partner. Another early partner was Shelby SuperCar in the United States - the company's Ultimate Aero was previously the world's fastest car.
CFusion's partnerships with major vehicle manufacturers and with Fraunhofer in Germany are now critical to progressing this technology to the point of global industry acceptance during the next
GREEN CAR INNOVATION FUND
The Government's $5.4 billion New Car Plan, which includes the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF), is transforming the Australian automotive industry and ensuring significant co-investment from around the world.
The GCIF provided assistance to Australian companies for projects that enhance the research and development and commercialisation of Australian technologies that significantly reduce fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions of passenger motor vehicles.
While the fund closed to new applications in January 2011 to help fund flood recovery, it is continuing to generate investment in the manufacturing sector.
For information on new opportunities for clean technology research and development, visit www.cleanenergyfuture.gov.au.
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