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Products and solutions, 2002-04-15, 02:00 AM

Lightweight steel wheels for the new Ford Mondeo

Lighter than aluminum

With new grades being developed all the time, steel plays a key role in automotive weight reduction, and in recent times especially for wheels. Based on new high-strength steels from ThyssenKrupp Stahl which have only been on the market for a few years, wheel manufacturers have developed lightweight steel wheels which are around 20 percent lighter than classic steel wheels.

A car`s wheels account for only around three percent of its curb weight. This may appear insignificant at first glance, but the fact that wheels are subject to rotational and translational acceleration means that their weight has a key influence on handling, comfort and consumption. Every kilo saved here is worth three kilos of weight reduction in linearly accelerated body parts - one of the reasons why car wheels have always been an area of intensive research.

A prime example of the weight reduction potential of these new steel grades are the new lightweight steel wheels for the Ford Mondeo which tip the scales at just 8.25 kilos, 2.45 kilos less than a standard 16-inch steel wheel. The alternative same-size alloy wheels offered by Ford for the Mondeo are around one kilo heavier. The new lightweight steel wheels allow enhanced suspension response while at the same time reducing tire rolling resistance.

Lightweight steel wheels now account for some 50 percent of the total car wheel market, and with virtually all new vehicles featuring these wheels, the figure is rising.

Although the innovative steel wheels are slightly more expensive to manufacture than their conventional counterparts, this is largely offset by the lower material requirements. And compared with aluminum wheels, steel wheels remain unbeatably cost-effective.

The possibilities offered by lightweight steel for car wheels are far from exhausted. Further developments are already underway in which steels with tighter tolerance ranges and flow-formed rims (with material thickness varying over the rim width) play a key part. The developers at Ford are also forging new plans. Following the success of the 16-inch wheel on the Mondeo and Jaguar X-Type models, lightweight steel wheels will be used exclusively on future vehicles. The new Ford Fiesta - to be launched in the fall of next year - will feature a 14-inch version, while a 15-inch wheel for the new Focus will complete the switch to lightweight steel wheels.

For more information:
ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG
Dietmar Stamm, Public Relations
Tel: +49 (0)203-52-2 62 67
Fax: +49 (0)203-52-2 57 07

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