Re-inventing the wheel
Carbon Revolution (CFusion), a Victorian company that, in partnership with Deakin University, produced the world's first one piece carbon fibre wheel, has been showcased at a Clean Technology Showcase in Canberra, an event launched by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr.
The Gillard Government is helping Australian businesses develop clean energy technologies as part of its Plan for a Clean Energy Future.
Minister Carr said the power and potential of clean technology was demonstrated by Carbon Revolution (CFusion)
"This Australian company is commercialising the world’s first one piece carbon fibre automotive wheel, which offers huge weight savings and therefore efficiency and performance benefits to the global automotive industry," he said.
Carbon Revolution is now collaborating directly with the world’s largest and most sophisticated vehicle manufacturers in Europe to bring this technology to the market in large volumes.
The company's unique, step-change technology offers huge weight savings to the global automotive industry. Efficiency benefits and therefore greenhouse gas emission reductions of between 3% and 8% are achievable.
In close partnership with Deakin University, Carbon Revolution developed its unique wheel made in one piece from carbon fibre. It is lighter, stronger and ultimately safer than alloy wheels.
“We have already completed the testing to prove that that it is stronger and safer,” said Jake Dingle, Executive Chairman of Carbon Revolution.
“Testing conducted in Germany over the past 24 months with the World renowned Fraunhofer Institute and with the IABG automotive and aerospace laboratory in Munich has proven the superiority of the technology over conventional aluminium wheels, both in terms of its durability and its impact resistance”
“What we are doing is creating an entirely new product, and a very timely one in the era of a carbon tax, that will help produce the coming generation of lightweight, sustainable motor vehicles.
“At the same time, we are creating a completely new industry around motor vehicles in Australia, one with huge export potential in Europe, the US, China and India, and the ability to create between 180 and 200 jobs in Australia in the short term and significantly more in the medium and longer term.
“The first major production facility is now under development and will be brought on-stream by early 2013, with a capacity of around 250,000 parts per year. This sounds large but really only represents 60,000 vehicles or the equivalent of one vehicle program for a large scale manufacturer.
“In the not too distant future we anticipate that much larger scale production facilities more typical of the scale of conventional aluminium wheel plants around the world will be brought on-stream”
The company is currently working with some of the world’s major vehicle manufacturers to bring this technology to market on their vehicles at high volumes.
As acknowledged world leaders in this field, Carbon Revolution has recently been engaged by certification bodies in Europe to assist with rapidly developing an industry standard for this new technology.
This is being driven by the extremely high priority that is now being placed on the reduction of vehicle emissions in Europe and the anticipated fast uptake of this technology once it is widely available.
Carbon Revolution recently received $1.4 million from the Federal Government’s Green Car Fund and this has provided a critical boost to activities as it gets ready to build this first factory in Australia.
Managing director, Dr Matt Dingle, a former Deakin engineering student and research academic, says the carbon fibre wheel has many applications, and not just in the automotive industry.
“The high performance end of the motor vehicle market was the first to get wind of this and take interest,” he said. “That’s because they’re not price sensitive and they are willing to invest.
“However, this innovation is most applicable to more mainstream, mass-produced vehicles, where emission reductions can be maximised due to high volumes. It is also highly applicable to the aerospace industry where the value of weight savings are even higher.”
“This is a brand new process and industry that all started with the company’s founders and Deakin collaborating on an engineering project. It has grown rapidly but three of the original inventors; Ashley Denmead, Brett Gass and I are still with the company.”
“We are extremely fortunate to now have a very strong team of people that covers the same breadth of skills and experience usually only found in much larger organisations.”
“This is a good model for what is possible through effective collaboration between industry and universities”
Dr Dingle said having access to the new Australian Future Fibre Research and Innovation Centre (AFFRIC) at Deakin was a real boon for Carbon Revolution.
“To have this facility developing new forms of carbon fibre that can be fed into our process and optimise our industrial supply chain is a huge advantage,” said Jake Dingle.
“Raw material is a significant part of our input cost, but the relationships that we are now establishing with the World’s major global carbon fibre producers indicate that our efficient process and scale will enable us to access very competitive fibre supply.
“This will ultimately result in the cost of these parts being very competitive with conventional aluminium wheels”
Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, said the partnership with Carbon Revolution was an example of the way the university wants to work with the community and industry on research projects.
“Deakin is a relatively young university but this is testament to our commitment to excellence in research both in Victoria and throughout Australia,” she said.