New Alcoa Truck Wheels to Cut Weight, Fuel Costs
NEW YORK, N.Y., March 20, 2009 - Reuters - Alcoa Inc's launch this week of new lightweight aluminum wheels for trucks and buses will cut 600 to 1,300 lbs off total truck weight compared with steel wheels, which means fuel and CO2 emissions will be cut and tire wear improved, the head of the company's wheel division said.
"You really get two benefits: You improve fuel economy and tire wear, plus you reduce the overall weight of the truck so you can increase your load or cargo," said Alcoa Wheels and Transportation Products President Kevin Kramer.
The new wheels, called Alcoa LvLONE (level one) wheels, are the lightest weight wheels available and also cut about 50 lbs off of a truck using aluminum wheels.
Speaking to Reuters by phone, Kramer said the lighter wheels offer an average one-year payback when factoring in the 3 to 5 percent fuel savings, depending on truck and load type.
Because trucks traveling on U.S. roads have weight restrictions, Kramer said the lighter wheels lower the total weight of the truck and trailer, allowing them to carry more product or cargo in their bulk containers.
The forged wheels, made using a process that presses the wheels out in one piece, also improve tire and brake wear.
Not only does heat dissipation with aluminum wheels give better tire wear from lower heat, but the single piece of forged metal means less air escapes than with the two welded pieces typical on steel wheels.
The less air that escapes from a tire maintains its air pressure, increasing fuel economy and improving tires wear.
In addition, a shiny finish on both sides of the new wheels will also lower inventory costs.
"Aesthetically, they look great, and that's important to truckers," the executive said.
Wheels have previously been finished on only one side, meaning customers need to keep more types of wheels in stock for 18-wheel rigs or when wheels get rotated.
"With this process both sides are finished so you can turn them inside out and you don't need to keep several kinds of wheel in stock," he added.
Alcoa will sell the new wheels to truck, trailer and bus manufacturers, but Kramer said they created a calculator to help bus and truck fleets figure out fuel and weight savings.
Kramer said Alcoa will sell the wheels globally, noting that the company expects bus fleets to continue increasing over the next 20 years throughout Asia and Europe, where fuel costs and potential savings are higher than in the U.S.
About 75 percent of trucks currently use steel wheels and 25 percent use aluminum wheels in the global market. The North American truck, trailer and bus market employs about 40 percent aluminum and 60 percent steel wheels, he said.
(Reporting by Carole Vaporean; Editing by Christian Wiessner)