With Ash Denmead, Jake Dingle and Matt Dingle

26 July 17

As the engines revved and the drivers braced expectantly at the Formula SAE starting line, the team behind the Deakin University car had its eyes on another entry. The Swedish car with a partial carbon fibre wheel.

At the time, the Deakin team wasn’t really thinking beyond Formula SAE. ‘We thought that carbon fibre wheels would be the ultimate in weight saving. So in 2004–5 we had a whole series of programs going on at the University trying to develop a carbon fibre wheel.’ 

What those programs initiated was the development of something that car manufacturers had been aspiring to for 15 years – a full one-piece carbon fibre wheel.

‘Efficiency is a big part of it too because you can speed up and slow down quicker. You can get two to six per cent greater fuel economy by using this technology.’

The founding members were convinced that they could master the creation of a carbon fibre wheel, and wanted to focus on coming up with a method that would allow them to mass produce it and make it economically viable.

Initially, Matt, Ash and the team worked in collaboration with Deakin University’s Formula SAE group, providing technical input and mentoring. When they successfully secured a federal government grant they started what is now Carbon Revolution.

‘Efficiency is a big part of it too because you can speed up and slow down quicker. You can get two to six per cent greater fuel economy by using this technology.’

 

With Jake on board, Carbon Revolution began carving out a niche in the automotive industry. ‘There are two segments that we work in,’ explains Jake. ‘There’s the after-market segment, which is where we sell our wheels to retail customers via a global distribution network. Then there’s the work we are doing with major car manufacturers or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

‘One of the things that we have seen from the car industry since 2010 is the increased interest in something different like our wheels,’ says Jake. ‘It has become a hero product – a point of difference. Instead of cutting costs to stay in business, car manufacturers are looking at investing in new technology.

‘Within 10 years we will have factories here and elsewhere producing up to a million parts a year.’

And even though they are remaining very focused on wheels, he says, the application of the technology has many forms and functions. ‘Sixty-three million cars are produced globally each year,’ says Jake. ‘Now multiply that by four.

‘And look at how many trucks there are in the world. Think about the economic benefit of halving the weight of their wheels. Then there are aircraft – where the economic benefits of a kilo of weight saving outstrip that of any land-based vehicle.’ 

Although they know there are several companies trying to learn their secret, there is a reason the men are not worried.

‘In Europe or the USA, you just don’t seem to find people with PhDs who are also very practical and good with their hands,’ says Jake. ‘Although really, our company started as four guys in a shed who were trying to build wheels. They just happened to have PhDs.’

‘It has been fantastic for the company working with Deakin,’ says Jake. ‘I don’t know of any other university in Australia that works with industry like this.’

‘Within 10 years we will have factories here and elsewhere producing up to a million parts a year.

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