When you look at the wheels for cars available at any notable retailer, you would hardly believe that the wheel was once considered an exotic invention, meant only for the rich and the famous, right?
And yet, it once was that way.
The history of the humble wheel, the rim that is, goes back a pretty long way. Aftermarket rims like Niche Wheels came a lot later.
Let’s take a quick look at the history of wheels. Then, we shall analyze which way the future is rolling for brands like Fuel Wheels.
The first items that could legitimately be called wheels were seen in ancient Egypt and later the Mesopotamian civilization where wooden logs were used to haul huge weights. It was how the Great Pyramids were built.
Jump to 1802, and the invention of wire spokes was a huge breakthrough. Patented by G.B. Bauer, these spokes would later form an integral part of the first recognizable wheels for cars.
However, the first modern wheel would be designed by the German legend Carl Benz. With spoke wire wheels and rubber pneumatic tires, these were almost the prototypes of what we see on the roads nowadays.
Today, we see high-grade aluminum being used in the manufacture of Niche Wheels and other brands. However, steel disc wheels, made using stamped stainless steel, were already around from the 1920s.
Aluminum was not too late for the reckoning either- some of the first aluminum rims came out in 1924. They were noted for their lighter designs and their ability to dissipate heat while braking a lot faster.
In 1958, Cadillac started using a rim that was forged out of a steel-aluminum mixture.
But before that, in 1956, Cadillac also made history with a gold-anodized rim. That was one of the milestones in the long journey of aftermarket rims, with Fuel Wheels and other major manufacturers later taking the baton.
Around 1965, Alfa Romeo finally started using alloy wheels for its coupes and bigger models. Since then, the alloy rim has had no near competitor. With muscle cars like Mustangs rolling out models that could take an aluminum rim forged from a single block (not unlike some of the best current wheels for cars) coupled with chrome rims, aluminum alloys became a byword for rims of all sorts.
And the Mags or Magnesium wheels entered the mainstream in the late ‘60s too. That was a decade of development and high-tech R&D.
Porsche and Ferrari started using aluminum and magnesium alloys in the early 1970s.
It was in the 1990s when things got really interesting. Most wheels for cars started to get bigger and bigger; from the standard 15-inch models, most passenger vehicles started using 17-inch wheels. This led to a sea-change in the way OEM businesses and the aftermarket markets worked.
Indeed, in 1998, the 22-inch rims regained renewed popularity. For the last few years of that decade, bigger rims had regained their popularity as well., and that continued for several more years as nationwide safety standards kicked in, disallowing their use for everyday passenger cars.
These safety standards vary from one country to another, but the broad fundamentals remain the same. Major brands like Fuel Wheels started to gain traction as people realized that such custom wheels could actually make their vehicles look way cooler than the staid OEM ones.
This has continued as you are reading this. Even with the new generations of riders, the love for fantastic aftermarket rims has not diminished one bit. It seems to have increased a lot as more brands create even more outlandish designs to attract potential customers.
But what’s the future of wheels for cars?
The future is yet to be told but some clues have certainly emerged. Most of the changes that are imminent will lie in the tires and not the rims per se. Major rim makers like Niche Wheels will have to adjust their products accordingly.
You can expect that most tires will gradually have lower rubber content as recycled materials take precedence in their manufacturing process. The basic designs will not change, but the psi indices for tires will probably witness some major refinements.
The future of the wheel is also the future of the EV. Electric Vehicles already have a toehold in several countries as the cars of the future. That being so, the ‘Tweel’ might just be the future of wheels for cars!
Designed and patented by Michelin, the Tweel is a combination of a tire and a wheel and is essentially a non-pneumatic rim which has the spokes that we are familiar with. Other companies will have similar products on the shelves soon, but Tweels have already sparked some major interest among customers.
That said, a Tweel has some pretty dangerous issues with vibrations that start whenever a car is going at more than 50mph. Clearly, aftermarket giants like Fuel Wheels will bring their expertise here to set things straight.
Perhaps they already are working on such projects!
The idea of the ‘active wheel’ is still in the works. So, we will have to make do with what we have: alloy wheels for cars. When you are buying your next set, ensure that they are branded and carry all the bells and whistles that are supposed to arrive with them.