A European Union (EU)-funded consortium, coordinated by Italy-based RI-BA Composites S.r.l. and Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT), will develop and commercialize a lightweight carbon fiber wheel by using an automated, high pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process.

The consortium, known as “CARIM,” believes its developments in automated CFRP production technology will generate a wheel that is 30-50 percent lighter than state-of-the-art aluminum wheels.

“The manufacture of these wheels in an automated preforming and HP-RTM process will ensure short cycle times and lower costs that will enable scale-up to series production and make the CARIM wheels competitive against current casted/forged Al-wheels and other emerging plastic wheel concepts,” Fraunhofer ICT said.

Fraunhofer ICT cited the success of BMW’s composite applications as an example of how CFRP contributes to weight reduction. This is important in Europe, which has mandated a 40 percent CO2 emissions decrease for fleets from 2007 to 2021.

“CFRPs (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics) show superior mechanical characteristics with respect to lightweight potential, and have been integrated into the structural bodywork of several innovative vehicles like the BMW i-series,” Fraunhofer ICT said.

The idea of mass producing a carbon fiber wheel is one that has picked up momentum over the past year. In July 2015, Ford teamed up with Australian supplier Carbon Revolution to craft the wheels for Shelby GT350R Mustang, which is now seen as a “game changer” in the automotive industry. By using carbon fiber, Ford and Carbon Revolution were also able to cut the weight of each wheel nearly in half.