SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel
  • SAE World Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheel

As fuel economy regulations tighten all around the world, each part of the automobile is getting a second (and third and fourth ...) look to see if there is any way to squeeze out a few more yards per gallon. At the SAE World Congress in Detroit this week, Lacks Enterprises was showing off its contribution to the get-every-efficiency debate: Evolve Hybrid Wheels.

James Ardern, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems director of business development, told AutoblogGreen that wheels, which spin at 1,000 rpm, are pretty much four propellers that can have a big effect on aerodynamics, an effect that hasn't been measured nearly as much as it could be.

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle."

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle," he said. The things right next to the wheels, the tires get tested. Consumer Reports, for example, has shown that better, more efficient tires can raise a vehicles mpg rating by one or two ticks, and Lacks has test results that show that the wheels – at least the Evolve wheels – can do the same.

The Evolve Hybrid Wheels are not to be only used on hybrids. The name comes from the hybrid composite wheel technology that is applied to a structural aluminum backbone that is both lightweight and strong. Then, the designers can add a variety of shapes to blend aerodynamic efficiency with good looks (eye of the beholder and all). Lacks had Roush conduct some independent tests, and discovered that a Ford Focus SE outfitted with the Evolve wheels got a 0.4 mile per gallon improvement in the average city fuel economy and a 1.1 mpg highway improvement, compared to the car's stock wheels.

The idea is to co-develop efficient wheels with the automakers, and Ardern said Lacks is currently in discussions with three different OEMs and, "We do have one Evolve wheel already launching on an OEM capacity towards the end of this year," but he would not name which company. First truck testing will be tested by June and a second in August/September, and the same type of test will be run. An expanded set of tests will be done on the Focus this summer as well. There are no plans to test the wheels on an alternative power vehicle, but Ardern did say the program "will keep expanding."

"Why hasn't this happened before? One, it hasn't been measured. Two, it is difficult to do it. It is not an exaggeration to say wheel development includes many towers of competency: wheel suppliers themselves from a manufacturing point of view, wheel engineering from a structural and safety point of view, not also weight teams and fuel economy and ride and handling teams are getting involved. But then you've still got design and now aero. The problem is, you put all of those people in the same room at the same time and you'll never optimize a wheel. The value of our product is you create the backbone and that cuts our all groups but the design and aero teams. Perhaps the key thing that's going to come out of all this is that the method is going to enable it to get out onto the road."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 39 Comments
      CarNutMike
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Roush conduct some independent tests, and discovered that a Ford Focus SE outfitted with the Evolve wheels got a 0.4 mile per gallon improvement in the average city fuel economy" Source Check: Evolve's website says 0.04 improvement in city, which has to be within the margin of error. http://evolvehybrid.com/fueleconomytest.html
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can understand the value of such research on heavy transport, but honestly, is anyone so pedantic as worry about these almost infinitesimal fuel savings ? Let's see, hmm... if the average US motorist drives 12,000 miles p.a, at an average of 25 miles per gallon, (480 gal) x $3.50 per gal. = $1680 divided by . 5 average saving = $8.50 p.a, or less than 2 cents per day ! Now the extra cost of the wheels,.......
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        @ Sean Thompson Sean, I admire the dedication of someone who would devote time to searching for wheel skirts, just to obtain a possible increase in fuel efficiency amounting to $8.50 per year ! However, the thought occurs, why not just buy a Volt ? @ DaBean Er, my maths seems correct ! You've altered the data in the equation ! I did allow for a 365 day year , and my source for the price of US gasoline, is Gasbuddy.com which gives the cites the currant average US price at $ 3.51 per gallon. The best information I can find on the cost of the wheels is well of $100 each. So, at $8.50 per year, that's about you'd have to keep the car 47 years to make it worthwhile ! (price of gasoline would increase, so maybe 15 years) Again, wouldn't it just be easier to buy a Volt, or an EV ?
          DaBean
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          It's correct until you "divide by 0.5". I'm not sure of that logic behind the operation, but to find the cost savings, you need to look at it like this: "Cost w/o wheels" - "Cost w/ wheels" = "cost savings" Your cost w/ wheels with $3.50/gallon, 25mpg, and 12,000 miles a year is correct. It's how you take the 0.5 mpg into account that I dispute. Either way, it still comes out to not much a year.
        Sean Thompson
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        When you think of large fleets ... the number of all the cars in the US ... even tenths of a percent improvements can save tens of thousands of gallons of fuel per year. I have been trying to find wheel skirts for my car since I bought it in 2006 to make it more aerodynamically efficient. They simply don't exist. I wish automakers (and the aftermarket) focused more on giving us useful options for new cars ... instead of cosmetic bling and other pointless junk.
        DaBean
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        I think that your math is flawed: using your example: (12,000 miles / year) / (25 miles / gallon) * ($4 / gallon) = $1,680 / year (12,000 miles / year) / (25.5 miles / gallon) * ($4 / gallon) = $1,647 / year Savings = $1,680 / year - $1,647 / year = $33 / year, or $0.12 / day It so happens that your point is still correct (cost savings are marginal), but if the wheels can be produced for the just $100 (which, in production and installed by the OEM, is likely...), that's a break-even of 3 years, assuming gas prices don't change. That's not too bad, and in fact better than a Prius
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      "We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle." In other news it has been discovered that water is wet!
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      Improvement of .4mpg and 1.1mpg in city and hwy driving, respectively, over what kind of alternative wheel on the Ford car? The comparison test is rigged. Another typical Detroit scam on the unsuspecting consumer.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lightweight is good, but these don't look very aerodynamic to me. They look like the classic spoke design that has evolved from wooden wagon wheels. Make it smooth and slippery people! Vehicles with regenerative brakes don't need massive brake cooling.
        GasMan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Your eye is not a wind tunnel.
        Sean Thompson
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Paul, don't discount reduced rotating mass. Saving weight (rotating or reciprocating mass) is several times more effective than saving weight elsewhere in a vehicle. This saves fuel as it takes less energy to get the vehicle moving to a given speed ... especially true in stop-and-go driving. On the highway? It's all about aerodynamics.
        Camaroman101
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        yea but these still look good while being aero. not sure what they testes these against. a stock se wheel? also i'd like to see what the sfe aero wheel covers scored against these
          paulwesterberg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Camaroman101
          The vehicles that set land speed records at the Bonneville salt flats do not use wheels that look like this. Those engineers design those vehicles first and foremost for efficiency. We need automotive parts engineers to have a similar dedication to efficiency.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      ecomodders figured this out, hm.. how many decades ago... :) Cmon, big auto..
        icemilkcoffee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Hotrodders have known about the arodynamic part since the days of the Moon wheel covers.
      Aaron
      • 2 Years Ago
      It HAS been brought up before by car manufacturers. It HAS been measured. It is NOT difficult to do it. However, brake cooling and appearance (public acceptance) have always been an issue. Why do you think hard-core EV and hybrid drivers put smooth aluminum discs over their wheels? Aerodynamics. This company isn't doing anything new. They're just marketing it as such.
        CarNutMike
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Aaron
        Exactly. The OEMs have their own instrumented wind tunnels. They know EXACTLY what they are leaving on the table with respect to fuel economy when they choose a wheel.
        spannermonkeyuk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Aaron
        This isn't true. It's actually very difficult to correctly measure the rotational aerodynamic resistance of a spinning wheel. In all cases it's difficult to separate rolling resistance and spoke self-ventilation from genuine aero effects. People have been attempting it for years, but the methods are fundamentally flawed; just pragmatic compromises to get something useful. It's a hot topic in automotive aerodynamics right now (my field), and people are trying to figure it out, but there isn't a wind tunnel in the world that can do it properly.
      domingorobusto
      • 2 Years Ago
      They're pretty easy to make out of fiberglass you know. And even easier if you don't really care about aesthetics. You can just get a 4x8 sheet of composite honeycomb core flat material (like Plascore), cut it to the shape of your wheel well (you can do this easily with a $10 saw and a sanding block), glue small stainless steel L-tabs on to the skirt and onto your existing inner fender well, and you'll be done for less than $100 and about 4 hours of effort. Check out the hypermiler boards, they've got a billion threads on making your own skirts.
      autoblah
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mercedes knew this in the 80s hence the flat face wheel designs back then.
      Andre Laplante
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well maybe if vehicles had smaller tires with less rolling resistance theyd get better mileage. Just a thought. Not saying we go back to 13" or 14" but 18"son an "economy" ride hardly seems efficient.
      BG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Those 18, 19, 20+-inch wide blingy wheels that you see on so many crossovers and SUVs are aerodynamically inefficient. Almost none of them have any practical need for those wheels, but as long as gas is cheap in the US, almost none of the buyers care.
        domingorobusto
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BG
        Much worse than the aerodynamic inefficiencies are the inherent inertial inefficiencies caused by all that excess weight.
          BG
          • 1 Year Ago
          @domingorobusto
          True! But almost no suburban drivers have any idea what you are taking about. They think all you have to do is mash the accelerator, and the thing goes.
      icemilkcoffee
      • 2 Years Ago
      If carmakers were serious about saving weight, they would stop going to 19 inch wheels and 20 inch wheels. There is pretty much no reason for any passenger car to go beyond 17 inch wheels. Smaller economy cars should stick with 15 inchers.
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