An Australian manufacturer that supplies GM with carbon fiber wheels for certain Chevy Corvette variants, Carbon Revolution, has announced plans to build a North American factory with a potential output of several hundred thousand sets of wheels per year.
The most probable location for the carbon fiber wheel factory is Mexico to provide the booming U.S. market with lightweight high-tech wheels, Automotive News reports.
Jake Dingle, CEO of Carbon Revolution, says a North American location would put manufacturing capacity next to the company’s biggest market, the American auto industry. Dingle says “North America is leading the pack” when it comes to the adoption of carbon fiber wheel use, with U.S. automakers seeking weight-saving components for “larger pickups and SUVs” as well as EVs.
While automakers earlier went from steel rollers to aluminum in order to save weight, the use of carbon fiber enables slashing mass by another 50 percent according to Carbon Revolution. This, the company asserts, adds 5 to 10 percent additional range per charge to an EV equipped with the advanced wheels.
Carbon Revolution has built up a $730 million order backlog, highlighting the need for a new, larger facility than its current Australian factory that can produce 70,000 wheels annually. With much of the backlog coming from U.S. orders and approximately half earmarked for EVs, the choice of factory location was a foregone conclusion.
The factory will likely open in the next several years. Jake Dingle says rapid, large-scale manufacturing scaling was built into Carbon Revolution’s product and factory design from the start. He remarks that “everything we did would lead us to a high-volume, large-scale manufacturing capability” and added “one of the key decision criteria always has been that we must be able to automate and must be able to scale up.”
The carbon fiber wheel maker has multiple strong ties to The General, making this an important event for future GM production as well. A half-decade collaboration between the two led to inclusion of 20-inch front and 21-inch rear carbon fiber wheels in the Z07 package (RPO code Z07) for the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06, providing 41 pounds of weight savings. GM went so far as to take a Z06 to the Australian factory as a promotion for the wheels.
The ties between the two companies have strengthened to the extent that Bob Lutz, a former GM executive, recently joined Carbon Revolution’s board as the manufacturer prepares to go public on the NASDAQ stock exchange via a SPAC merger.
Carbon Revolution says it is looking at both partnerships and locations that will enable a “fairly rapid” launch of North American production.