Kinetic energy is often referred to as the well-known relationship between mass, the square of velocity and a constant. From here it is immediately apparent that by holding the energy constant, a reduction in mass means an increase in velocity. This basic optimization is the holy grail equivalent of the performance shop world. We continue to find innovative ways to reduce vehicle mass; such as using alloyed body panels, advanced plastics and more recently, carbon fiber.
What Exactly is Carbon Fiber?
At a most basic level it is made up of really thin (about a tenth of the thickness of a human hair) strands of carbon that are woven into intricate mesh layers. Kind of like a patchwork rug. As you might imagine it’s not exactly the kind of material that you can easily work with, which is why it is often reinforced with metals and plastics to form a composite. This is the most common form of carbon fiber which you may already have seen on high end products such as bicycles and automotive trim.
Why is Carbon Fiber So Popular?
The reason for the carbon craze is that it has an incredibly high strength (13 times stronger then aluminum) to weight ratio, as well as being fairly flexible. This makes it ideal for use in areas where you need something very strong, but also light, such as the aerospace industry and performance automotive shops. (In addition to this, it looks really cool too). It is becoming more and more prevalent as research and development continue to improve its composition, while reducing the cost of manufacture.
The latest breakthrough in the technology (besides a certain high-end sport’s car body) is to produce performance vehicle wheel rims out of it. The benefits of this are extreme (as in the Mustang Shelby GT350R extreme), not only does it make the vehicle weight less, a tremendous boost to power, but it also acts as an additional shock dampening system. This improves handling, suspension life while reducing cabin noise levels, and steering rack strain. All this comes at a price though, at roughly $12,000 for a set of performance shop carbon fiber rims, early adopters are going to have to have deep pockets.
Performance automotive marques such as BMW, Porsche, Koenigsegg and Ford have already jumped onto the bandwagon; it’s only a matter of time until the technology becomes mainstream. The rims are currently formed out of a carbon fiber composite, with alloy locating bolt holes pressed in, and a special plasma hardened inner layer to protect them against excessive brake heat.
What About the Usual Problems that Plague Mag Wheels Such as Curbs and Cracked Spokes?
As long as the damage to the rim is confined to the resin epoxy coating, the carbon fiber (which is fairly thick) it can easily be repaired by a simple re-coating and polish. As regards cracking, it is highly unlikely for carbon fiber to crack, and current rims are manufactured to safety tolerances in excess of the industry demands on conventional mags.
If you are interested in snagging a young set of these beauties (there is a company in Australia that currently does manufacture them) or simply want to explore the many other performance and aesthetic modifications that can be made to your vehicle, why not visit our performance shop today? At Foreign Affairs Motorsport our friendly ASE certified team will assist with anything, from basic advice to a complete vehicle remodel.