Last year Ford made a big to-do out of the fact that the track-ready Shelby GT350R Mustang would be the first “mass production” vehicle to offer carbon fiber wheels. Unsurprisingly, the Ford GT is also getting carbon fiber wheels, leaving GM fans to wonder when they’ll be offered the (ridiculously expensive) option of lighter-yet-stronger wheels. Well, wonder no longer.
Autoblog spoke with GM’s William Rodgers, a light polymer systems technical fellow in research and development at the automaker, who says the company is looking to bring carbon fiber wheels to market. When, however, remains uncertain.
The obvious early candidates for carbon fiber wheels would be your Cadillac V-Series vehicles, which can easily absorb the high cost. Carbon Revolution, which builds the carbon fiber wheels for the Shelby GT350R and Ford GT, told us that they sell an aftermarket set that retails for $15,000 per wheel. GM would likely turn to Carbon Revolution as a supplier for their own carbon fiber wheels, and would no doubt try to get a bulk order deal. Ford reportedly only pays about $4,000 per wheel for the GT350R.
Besides Cadillac, GM could also easily debut carbon fiber wheels on the next special edition Corvette, or offer it as a new option on the highly touted Z06. Another alternative could be the new Camaro Z/28 that recently crashed during testing at the Nurburgring. This may make the most sense, as the Z/28 is being billed as a Shelby-beating track racer, and GM claims that carbon fiber wheels could shed as much as 35 pounds of rotating mass.
However, the automaker is still testing and evaluating carbon fiber wheels at the moment, and it could be a few more product cycles before GM is ready to offer them to the public. It may also be waiting on one of several technologies in development that aim to drastically reduce the cost of carbon fiber. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has just granted the first license to its exclusive carbon fiber manufacturing process that reduces both the time and energy costs that go into the material’s production.
That could help GM spread carbon fiber wheels beyond its performance lineup, increasing the fuel economy of its gas sippers and increasing the range of its electric vehicles. It’d be easy to slap some carbon fiber wheels onto high-end Corvettes and call it a day, but we suspect GM may be thinking much bigger than Ford when it comes to carbon fiber.