Carbon rims: A completely new driving experience – not only for professionals
Automotive-sector | Ultralight carbon rims are no longer reserved for professionals only. Thanks to road approval for motorcycles and cars, the general public can now enjoy the completely new driving experience of carbon rims. But what is behind the carbon fibre that makes the hearts of motorsport fans all over the world beat faster?
It all started in 2012 with the partnership between thyssenkrupp and the Lightweight Center Saxony. In 2017 series production for the BMW HP4 RACE started. This exclusive motorcycle was fitted with high-tech rims made of the ultra-light material carbon from thyssenkrupp Carbon Components. Shortly afterwards Porsche also equipped its 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series with carbon fiber technology. A double world premiere. Just under two years later it was approved for road use by end consumers: a milestone for the motorcycle scene and thyssenkrupp.
The famous “Isle of Man TT” as test track
To put the carbon rims through their paces, there is one track in motorcycle racing that is particularly suitable: The infamous Snaefell Mountain Course on the Isle of Man. Both the fastest road racer in the world, Peter Hickman, and the German Penz13.com Racing Team have been using the carbon rims there successfully in recent years.
It was soon clear what the feedback would be. Because after the first ride, motorcycle professional Hickman could not suppress his joy: “Easy to ride, especially at high speed.” So easy that you have to wonder if you’ll ever race again without it.
“The feedback we have received from the professionals so far is outstanding,” says Dr. Jens Werner, CEO of thyssenkrupp Carbon Components. He himself has already been convinced by the unique driving experience – on a road trip from Dresden to the Isle of Man. “In the motorcycle sector, the difference in cornering behavior is gigantic,” says the CEO. Understandably so, because due to the so-called “gyroscopic effect”, motorcycles with classic, comparatively heavy aluminum rims tend to go straight ahead in fast curves – an enormous effort for the rider.
Ultralight carbon rims for a completely new driving experience
But the carbon rims are not only exciting for motorcycles, because tuning fans and car drivers are also interested in the lightweight carbon rims. Michael Franke, engineer and project manager for aftermarket car wheel development at thyssenkrupp Carbon Components, also found this out at the Essen Motor Show 2019. for him, too, the advantages of carbon wheels for cars are clear: “The advantage of carbon wheels is their reduced mass. The car has to put less energy into driving the wheels. In addition, the damping properties of the rims are improved.”
But that’s not all, because the rims also ensure that the vehicle can react faster and more agile to steering movements. The driver also has a noticeably lighter and more pleasant driving experience, because loud rolling noises and vibration effects are absorbed by the carbon rims. Die Chance für jedermann – Carbonfelgen mit Straßenzulassung
It was a long way to road registration – but since 2019 the milestone for motorcycles has been reached. This means that ambitious motorcyclists and in the near future also motorists from the end customer segment will have the chance to experience a completely new riding experience with carbon rims from thyssenkrupp Carbon Components. Bringing carbon rims onto public roads – the expense involved is difficult for laymen to imagine.
“What many people don’t know is that, unlike racing, much stricter regulations apply to road traffic. So enormous development work was necessary to design carbon in such a way that it meets all the requirements for normal road use,” explains Dr. Jens Werner.
Normally, carbon parts are placed in certain shapes by hand. “But in order to obtain approval for regular road traffic, we have to guarantee the same quality throughout,” explains Dr. Werner. “So every part must be exactly identical.”
Unique manufacturing process
But what does such a production look like and how does the carbon fibre become a rim? At thyssenkrupp Carbon Components’ high-tech plant in Kesselsdorf near Dresden, the patented answer is available: the world’s largest radial braiding machine. Thanks to the impressive and highly automated system with a height of nine meters, thyssenkrupp Carbon Components is able to produce the rim wells seamlessly. “This increases the strength and damage tolerance of our rims and enables us to produce the world’s lightest rims for motorcycles,” says Dr. Jens Werner.
And this is how the manufacturing process works: “Our rims have the advantage that the rim bases are produced in a braiding process. This production method is unique and cannot be found on any other rim,” explains engineer Michael Franke further. In contrast to the aftermarket carbon rims for motorcycles, the central part of the rim, the so-called wheel spider, on passenger car carbon rims from thyssenkrupp is not made of carbon but of forged aluminum.
Passenger car rims not 100% carbon? Why?
The explanation is catchy: Carbon rims for motorcycles are mainly in the performance sector. The cost question is rather secondary here. The decisive factor is that the rims should be as light as possible to offer a measurable advantage.
With the carbon rims for cars, the thyssenkrupp carbon experts want to make carbon fibers accessible to everyone. So price plays a greater role here. But even with a lower-cost aluminum wheel spider, a complete set of carbon rims is no bargain. Car and tuning enthusiasts have to pay a little more money for this new technology for their cars, at around 9,000 Euros.
Carbon and innovation as a future direction
Even with two milestones achieved: Things will never be boring at thyssenkrupp Carbon Components – the carbon experts remain true to their innovative approach and look to the future with optimism. International awards such as the “most innovative use of plastics” award from the Society of Plastics Engineers prove them right.
While new models are constantly being added to the list of motorcycle rims, promising new products are expanding the product range: both carbon rims for bicycles and reinforcing bars for the construction industry are new trend-setting projects from thyssenkrupp Carbon Components. And they are also already available on the market.
Are you interested in the products of thyssenkrupp Carbon Components? Please feel free to contact our experts directly.