Trends over the past few decades reveal the steady increase in demand for aluminum wheels vs steel, with penetration increasing in all categories and fleets of all sizes recognizing the advantages. Government regulations are adding to the push for aluminum as the best solution for fuel and payload efficiency. In response, aluminum wheel manufacturers are increasingly focused on designing solutions to meet customer demands.
Fleet owners and managers are spec’ing trucks with a focus on increasing performance and efficiency while lowering weight and maintenance costs. Managers need and want to focus on running their businesses, not on maintaining their vehicles. Therefore, when selecting features for their vehicles, like wheels, fleet managers want the process to be simple while making sure quality is not compromised for weight savings. They need to feel confident in a solutions provider with a history of inventing revolutionary breakthroughs that continually raise the bar.
The clear leader in this area is Arconic, a global technology, engineering, and advanced manufacturing company that invented the forged aluminum wheel in 1948. As the manufacturers of industry-leading Alcoa® Wheels, Arconic is committed to pioneering creative aluminum wheel solutions to generate value propositions for every customer. Since its inception, the company has introduced more than 8,000 patents benefiting a wide variety of industries. Led by its technical innovation center, the largest light metals laboratory in the world, hundreds of scientists and engineers have developed countless product advancements.
For example, Arconic’s portfolio of Alcoa Ultra ONE® Wheels with MagnaForce® alloy, unveiled in 2015, are each the lightest on the market. The lightest wheel in the industry at each size, these wheels provide improved payload efficiency that save substantial weight per vehicle. Each Alcoa Ultra ONE Wheel starts with MagnaForce, a proprietary alloy that offers a 17 percent increase in strength over existing alloys, to deliver unprecedented weight savings.
WITNESSING THE VALUE
Buying lighter weight, forged aluminum wheels is a no brainer when comparing maintenance, performance, efficiency, and appearance to steel wheels. Also, as gas and diesel prices remain a continued focus and payload efficiency becomes more critical, the urgency for equipment to find solutions that contribute value becomes greater than ever—not only in North America, but all over the world.
A recent study conducted by a third party testing agency and following SAE J1321 standardized fuel consumption test procedures, found that Alcoa Ultra ONE Wheels improve fuel economy by 1.9 percent over steel wheels in a 35 mph stop and go test cycle. Since fuel is historically the single largest operating cost to fleets, savings on this expense drop immediately to the bottom line. Whether for last mile delivery or for applications that experience stop and go, a nearly two percent fuel economy improvement can really add up.
Maintenance is also a priority among equipment managers in the work truck segment. Forged aluminum wheels offer reliable strength that significantly lowers maintenance effort and furthers the life of the equipment. Aluminum wheels do not require the continual refurbishing steel wheels do: removing rust, re-painting, or other labor-intensive actions. In addition, aluminum wheels are not painted like steel wheels, eliminating the need for touch ups. These additional maintenance steps result in higher overall lifetime costs.
Arconic paved the way for proprietary surface treatments from wheel suppliers, so it’s durable from the start and built to last when properly maintained. A comprehensive production process ensures that wheels will not crack, chip, or corrode. And, specially treated aluminum wheels shine up quickly with a simple scrub to keep the vehicle looking newer for longer.
Featured Image: 22.5 Ultra ONE® wheel with MagnaForce® alloy.
Above: Medium-duty aluminum wheel family.
SAVE ON WEIGHT
Work truck equipment managers should consider overall lifetime operating costs when spec’ing wheels on new equipment, since forged aluminum wheels can improve quick and continuous “payback” in fuel savings combined with maintenance savings over the life of the truck.
In addition, forged aluminum wheels’ strength, durability, and low weight deliver environmental advantages to complement their financial benefits. With larger payloads due to the weight savings, trips are reduced and, since forged aluminum wheels are infinitely recyclable, they’ll never see a landfill.
Third party research also confirms that Arconic’s aluminum wheels retain 75 percent resale value even after up to 10 years of use. So, when you couple freight efficiency and fuel economy with lower lifetime operating costs and payback of vehicle resale, the smart money is on aluminum wheels.
The medium-duty and work truck market is increasing in priority. As the inventor of forged aluminum wheels, Arconic has a long history of providing medium-duty wheels to the marketplace. Each wheel in its M-Series® line delivers the same benefits that its wheels provide to heavy-duty (Class 7 and 8) customers, but are customized to fit medium-duty applications.
Arconic introduced its first lightweight solution for the Ford Transit in 2016. The Transit 16- x six-inch single wheel weighs just 18 lbs, while the 16- x 6.5-inch dual application wheel weighs just 21 lbs. Each wheel is the lightest in its class.
Interest and demand are also growing for Sprinter vehicles. Today, the company offers a wheel designed specifically for this application. The 16- x 6.5-inch wheel for Sprinter 2500 single application chassis weighs just 21 lbs, while the 16- x 5.5-inch dual application wheel for Sprinter 3500 weighs just 17 lbs, and each provide all of the same benefits.
The past few years have brought many new breakthroughs into the commercial transportation space, and suppliers are always working on innovations in product design, manufacturing, alloy, and finishes. New wheel products benefit current and future customers with innovations that increase efficiency and lower operating costs for fleet owners and managers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Merrick Murphy is president of Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products (Cleveland, Ohio). Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products serves the commercial vehicle market with products used in a range of applications, including forged aluminum wheels, such as Alcoa Ultra ONE® Wheels with MagnaForce® alloy, Dura-Bright®, Dura-Flange®, LvL ONE®, and M-Series® medium-duty truck wheels, as well as a variety of other complementary accessory products for those markets. Find out more, visit www.alcoawheels.com.