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New Lacks eVOLVE hybrid wheel technology shows 1.1 mpg highway gain in fuel efficiency on Ford Focus

3 December 2012

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Design of the eVOLVE wheel. Click to enlarge.

Lacks Wheel Trim Systems LLC, a business unit of Lacks Enterprises, Inc., a global supplier of trim systems to the automotive industry, introduced its new patented eVOLVE hybrid composite wheel technology, based on Lacks’ Chromtec wheel technology, at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Hybrid-composite eVOLVE wheels developed for the Ford Focus as an initial proof of design showed a fuel economy improvement of 1.1 miles per gallon highway by balancing weight reduction and optimizing aerodynamics. As a comparison, the Focus production wheel BM5J-1007-DB (17x7x50) weighs 23.7 lbs (10.75 kg); the eVOLVE wheel (17x7x50) weighs 19.2 lbs (8.7 kg). Use of the eVOLVE wheels showed a 0.4 mpg improvement on the city cycle.

Fuel economy testing was per EPA’s “Vehicle Specific 5-cycle Fuel Economy and Carbon-Related Exhaust Emissions Calculations” (CFR 600.114-12). Lacks engineers believe there is further room for optimization of fuel economy through design and materials.

Lacks’ eVOLVE hybrid wheel technology features a novel construction consisting of:

  1. A high-performance structural backbone using I-spokes that is optimized for handling, weight, stiffness and safety. (The wheels for the Focus use structural cast aluminum, primarily as a way to keep costs low; other materials are possible, Lacks says.)

  2. A lightweight, hybrid-composite design surface that is created to optimize aerodynamics. In testing, the Lacks engineers found using just the structural backbone wheel—even though it is lighter (17.4 lbs/7.89 kg)—did not improve fuel economy as much as the heavier hybrid wheel, because of the aerodynamic improvements offered by the design surface. (Video of wind-tunnel testing here.)

  3. The space between the design surface and the aluminum backbone structure is foam-filled. Lacks’ proprietary manufacturing process combines all the materials to create an strong and durable, yet lightweight, metal composite wheel.

In the design phase, Lacks took its wheels into wind tunnels in which they could rotate the tires to tune the aerodynamics—the requirements of which are based not just on the flow of air across the out surface of the wheel, but also on the air pulled from beneath the car through the openings in the rotating wheel to the outside. The use of the eVOLVE wheel improved vehicle aerodynamic Cd 9 counts.

Lacks is targeting the wheel technology at automakers; benefits of the Lacks eVOLVE wheels include:

  • Separation of design from the technical restraints of the wheel backbone;

  • Lower weight allowing increased vehicle content, large wheel diameters, or improved fuel economy.

  • Enhanced vehicle trim levels with design, finishes and increased fuel economy.

The Lacks eVOLVE wheel technology provides a direct answer to helping automakers meet increasingly stringent federal fuel efficiency standards.

—James Ardern, Dir. of Business Development, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems

Lacks Enterprises, Inc. was formed in 1961. The company now is a global diversified operation providing complete turnkey trim solutions leveraging the company’s experience in thermoplastic design, injection molding, plating, painting, assembly, logistics and supply chain management. Lacks also provides global export and distribution capabilities.

December 3, 2012 in Fuel Efficiency, Vehicle Systems, Weight reduction | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

A gain of 1.1 mpg with an easy minor wheel change that could have been done decades ago? What were all the GM and other large manufacturers design engineers doing all those years?

G-M, has done a pretty good job with the wheels on the Volt and the Cruze Eco.

This seems like a lot of mileage gain for a loss of 2 kg per wheel and minor aerodynamic changes. Maybe the wheels of the Ford Focus needed some aerodynamic work. Most of the car companies work really hard on aerodynamics these day. Also, GM was working on some plastic composite wheels a while back but they must have not passed testing as I have not seen them in production.

@HarveyD
You make me laugh… Why didn´t YOU propose these minor changes decades ago? It must have been people like you around the table when Columbus showed them how to make an egg stand on its end.

@sd
It sounds a little bit too good to be true. Maybe I should change the wheels on my Focus Econetic (88 g/km CO2 & 3.4 l/100 km) that I will receive shortly. These wheels are also claimed to be more aerodynamic than the standard wheels but who knows, maybe eVOLVE´s are better.

Peter...good wooden and stone wheels have been around for 3000+ years? Aluminum wheels have been around for 100+ years and steel wheels much longer? Future, much lighter composites wheels will be around soon.

Making a more aerodynamic wheel is not a great challenge and most high school kids could do it.

I really don't see what this claim is all about?

Many 1920/1930 cars had aerodynamic large wheels!!!!!

"What were all the GM and other large manufacturers design engineers doing all those years?"

"Making a more aerodynamic wheel is not a great challenge and most high school kids could do it.

"I really don't see what this claim is all about?"

"Many 1920/1930 cars had aerodynamic large wheels!!!!"

1. Type,
2. Submit,
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2
4, Ignore step 5.
5. Think

I am sure I saw adds for these wheels right next to the adds for X-Ray spectacles in Mechanics Illustrated.

@HarveyD
Well, it is easy to say that if you reduce air resistance, fuel consumption will decrease. One could say the same about rolling resistance and many other factors. However, it might be more difficult to do this in practice. Perhaps stone wheels were more aerodynamic than those we have today. However, many other factors must also be considered (beside the weight of stone wheels), for example, ventilation of the brakes. Last but not least, the stylists and customers also have their opinion. Ugly wheels do not sell as long as there are other options.

The Focus Econetic I have ordered has aerodynamic steel wheels. There are no optional wheels for this model; Ford has limited the choices to the most aerodynamic version, just as the choice of color for the model T. I do have a specific interest in knowing if the eVOLVE wheels are “better” than those Ford offer.

"Making a more aerodynamic wheel is not a great challenge and most high school kids could do it. "

I don't think so, aerodynamics are hard, very hard. There is a reason why there are no simple formulas to calculating the Cd of a car. It mostly has to be done with finite elements calculations on heavy supercomputers.

Wheels are more difficult, since they rotate, creating their own turbulence. That makes it hard to find the right shape. Keeping (unsprung) weight in check is another factor. And don't forget that they must not obstruct the airflow too much. The brakes have to be cooled.

I think you underestimate the subject.

Human powered bicycles use about the most aerodynamic large diameter, full-thin ultra light wheels to win.

Many under-powered cars used similar full/thin wheels and tires in 1910's and 1920's for higher speed.

With the arrival of heavier high power V-8 gas guzzlers, manufacturers came out with non-aerodynamic, smaller diameter, wider, heavier wheels and tires. It probably raised fuel consumption by 2 or 3 mpg but Oil and Tire people liked that.

It is common sense to go back to basics for future EVs and use aerodynamic, more efficient, larger diameter narrow wheels and tires.

Larger diameter brakes (specially on EVs) will require a lot less ventilation and composites, lighter, aerodynamic full wheels will be an option.

@HarveyD
Well try to put the wheels from a Ford model T on a Ford Focus and see what happens. Then, even you would realize a few facts about the laws of physics. Using these wheels on an EV version of Focus would be even more difficult since this car would be much heavier than the ICE version.

Recent, more efficient vehicles (ICEVs, HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs) are progressively making use of larger diameter, narrower wheels and low friction tires to reduce the energy required to move those vehicles from A to Z. Many of those new wheels look a lot like the wheels used on 1920-1930+ high performance cars (not Ford model T). Today's tires are much better but the wheels.....?

"bicycles use about the most aerodynamic large diameter, full-thin ultra light wheels to win. "

High pressure bicycle wheels are not particularly aerodynamic and certainly do NOT have a low drag coefficient.

They are high pressure to minimize rolling resistance and large diameter to reduce drag due to road irregularities and the high pressure allows them to be narrow to minimize weight and frontal area.

But streamlining has not proven to be worth the weight.

I suspect you can examine various Bonneville racers to see the best low drag wheels - but at Bonneville they can ignore:

1. Ugly wheels do not sell
2. Must not obstruct the [brake] airflow too much
3. Must be light weight
4. Must be economical

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