The company is literally reinventing the wheel
Continental has developed what it calls the dual New Wheel Concept; a nifty wheel idea incorporating an outer section called the rim well, and inner section called the carrier star which incorporates an aluminum brake disc.
Continental says the design optimizes braking for electric vehicles by reducing weight, while eliminating poor braking performance from traditional brake rotors that can be subject to corrosion. It would also reduce maintenance costs because the aluminum disc is designed to last the life of the car.
“In EVs, it’s crucial that the driver expends as little energy as possible on the friction brake,” said Paul Linhoff, Continental's head of brake pre-development in the chassis & safety business unit. “During a deceleration, the momentum of the vehicle is converted into electricity in the generator to increase the vehicle’s range. That’s why the driver continues to operate the brake pedal – but it certainly doesn’t mean that the wheel brakes are active too.”
Basically, the inner star section attaches to the hub, with the wheel brake fastened to the wheel carrier of the axle. The brake engages the disc from the inside, allowing for a wider friction radius. With the lightweight design, the car uses less energy to accelerate and maintain speed, thus increasing range. Since EVs use regenerative braking, physical brake components are subject to less wear. As such, the aluminum disc will last the life of the car, with the only wear items being the brake pads.
Continental says it designed its New Wheel Concept for medium and compact-class vehicles, and that the design was deemed “sturdy and fulfills all the established criteria” for this application. As far as we can tell, no outside testing on this design has been performed.
It’s certainly an interesting concept, especially at a time when vehicle mass is steadily increasing on pretty much every model, electric or otherwise. The idea of a lifetime brake disc is certainly appealing as well, and aluminum does offer numerous performance advantages. We’re not entirely sold on the looks of the wheel, and we would certainly need to see more testing for durability. But for vehicles that make prolific use of regenerative braking, this could be something worth watching.