New aluminium alloy is stronger and more sustainable

The brief handed to the Rio Tinto’s Arvida Research and Development Centre, five years ago, was a tough one: invent a stronger car wheel alloy that could cut fuel consumption, improve safety and handling and supersede an industry standard no one had bettered for more than four decades. And oh, for good measure, make the wheels at existing facilities (to keep the cost down), and also make sure they are easy to recycle.


Technical director Jerome Fourmann explains why the company set out to meet this challenge: “We wanted to offer automakers a new, innovative alloy that allowed them, through styling and design, to reduce the weight of the wheels, which is very important to improving fuel efficiency – because, in the end, people want to drive not just the safest but also the greenest and most innovative cars.” 

It has been a long journey, but the end product is a brand new and fully tested wheel alloy, fittingly called Revolution-Al.

Revolution-Al’s main improvement is that it is 15-20% stronger than the traditional – and less colourfully named – wheel alloy, A356.2. This translates to a 7% weight reduction and better fuel efficiency or battery range. The lighter, stronger wheels also mean better performance and handling and reduced tire wear.

Plus, when a wheel is lighter, the impact on efficiency is more dramatic than with other parts – because a lighter wheel means the car needs less energy to start moving. The strength of Revolution-Al means that as manufacturers increasingly look to make lighter, more fuel efficient cars, the new alloy could be used to light-weight car parts other than wheels.  

And, not forgetting the last part of the challenge, Revolution-Al™ also needs less time to produce a wheel and is cast in existing facilities, thereby reducing the cost and increasing the rate of production.

Industrial product and investment director Jean-Francois Laplante says there was a fantastic feeling among the teams when they finally solved the puzzle. “The current wheel alloy has been around for a long time and now we’re coming to the market with a new way of doing things,” Jean-Francois says. “We were super excited when we saw the result.”

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