August 23, 2015
Geelong manufacturer Carbon Revolution has scored a landmark coup, becoming the first company in the world to supply mass-produced carbon fibre wheels on standard equipment for a major automaker.
Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company announced its Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R muscle car would include the Australian manufacturer’s cutting-edge one-piece wheels – a deal that Carbon Revolution believes will pave the way for other contracts with global car manufacturers.
The Victorian company pioneered commercial production of carbon fibre wheels made from a single piece of material. Until now the wheels have sold solely as an aftermarket product for high-end cars such as Porsche, BMW and Lamborghini at $US15,000 a set.
Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane described Ford USA’s announcement as “a great day for Carbon Revolution and Australian advanced manufacturing”.
The innovative business has become a bright light for Geelong’s auto industry and job market, doubling its workforce this year to 90 staff, with up to three new staff joining the team each week.
The company also late last year opened a new $23.8 million advanced manufacturing facility, located alongside Deakin University, CSIRO and Carbon Nexus in Waurn Ponds, Geelong. In its first phase, the new plant will produce 50,000 wheels for the global car market annually – potentially growing to 250,000 by phase two.
As happened in the 1970s, when aluminium wheels entered the market and replaced many steel wheels, CEO Jake Dingle tells AAMC News that carbon fibre wheels are set to transform the sector. Weighing up to 50 per cent less than their conventional aluminium equivalents, the carbon fibre wheels provide massive benefits in vehicle performance and efficiency.
He says the lightweight wheels cut C02 emissions by up to six per cent – a boon for overseas automotive manufacturers who need to meet new emissions regulations.
Mr Dingle says that with 60 million-plus cars manufactured around the world each year, the potential market for Carbon Revolution’s products is enormous. “That’s close to 250 million (wheels) for new cars, let alone the aftermarket.”
Mr Dingle says the company, which evolved from a student design competition, has taken the global leadership position in its field. It has also established strong technology collaborations around the world for technical development and product testing with partners including Deakin University, RMIT University and the CSIRO.
While carbon fibre wheels may be currently outside the budget of most car owners, Mr Dingle predicts they’ll eventually become an everyday product, as prices fall due to advancing technology and increasingly automated processes.
“A big part of our strategy is to keep reducing costs consistently and aggressively,” he says.
In the long term, he believes Carbon Revolution will build large manufacturing facilities offshore, to meet the needs of major automotive companies located many thousands of kilometres away.
But Mr Dingle says Carbon Revolution will always maintain its Australian headquarters as an “R&D powerhouse” that continues to manufacture significant volumes for the premium end of the market, whilst relentlessly driving technology development.
The company also sees big potential in aerospace and industrial markets, with partnership arrangements with major players progressing towards formal agreements.
To date, Carbon Revolution has sourced the majority of its capital through private sources, with contributions from government at key stages. Mr Dingle says the company hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a public listing in the next one or two years to access funding that would help harness its potential in global markets.
For now, Mr Dingle says the company will continue to employ many of its staff from companies such as Ford Australia, Alcoa and Qantas, which are all pulling out of Geelong.
“It’s certainly a very good time to be looking for talented and motivated people to join the team – there are a lot of good people looking around,” says Mr Dingle. ”Certainly what we’re doing excites a lot of people, and provides a very dynamic career path that can hopefully motivate them to grow with us.”