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MetroMPG 12-13-2007 09:45 PM mailbag: what about lightweight rims?
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Got another one this week:


How about a lighter rim and tire combo? I know it will help all around performance, so it should also help fuel economy.

I have never heard of light weight tires (you could use a smaller tire - Metros came with 12" or 13" tires, but I don't think there are a lot of options there). So guess my question should just be limited to lighter rims.
Lightweight rims are a definite efficiency booster.

They're particularly good for city driving - or any situation where speed is changing frequently (pulse & glide, anyone?). All the "high performance" cars - at both ends of the performance spectrum - have 'em. Ferarris to Civic VX's.

Honda Canada just added the rims from its hybrid model as standard equipment on its non-hybrid 5-speed model (along with LRR tires, underbody panels and a deck lid spoiler) to lower the fuel consumption enough to earn an efficiency rebate from the government. (And now the non-hybrid looks identical to the hybrid).

Weight reduction in general is a favourite ecomodding tactic, but pound for pound, it's even more effective to take off rotating mass than static mass. I've read in various places that taking off 1 lb of rotating mass is the same as removing anywhere from 7 to 16 lbs elsewhere (there's the Internet for ya). [EDIT: this bit of fuzzy Internet fluff is corrected below.]

The problem for me is my car has an uncommon bolt pattern.

Whatever the Honda pattern is, it's not the Geo's! Ask me how I know.

When I was shopping for my first Firefly, I had a set of VX rims sitting in the garage waiting. Unfortunately, the closest I got to putting them on the car was in Photoshop....

If the Metros had an affordable, lightweight 13 inch rim option like the Honda people have, it would be on the Blackfly in a heartbeat.

And a heartbeat later, they'd disappear behind a smooth wheel cover. :)


MetroMPG 12-14-2007 04:55 PM

I even took the VX rims in to my machinist friend (the guy who made the motor/tranny coupler for the ForkenSwift) to see if he would drill out a new set of holes in the VX rims that would fit the Firefly's stud pattern (that's why on the rear wheel in the above pic, you can see I Photoshopped the 8-hole pattern, to see what it'd look like).

But he said, nuh-uh.

Honda (or the rim supplier) optimized these rims so much for weight that they scooped out material on the back side in between the original stud holes.

So buddy said: "If I were in my 20's and this was for MY OWN car, I might try it. But I'm older and wiser now, and I've seen stuff break. I just don't think there's enough meat in the hub area of these rims to machine out your new holes without compromising them."

MetroMPG 12-14-2007 05:00 PM

Got another reply from the (shy) asker of the original question:


Isn't there a 12 inch rim for the metro??? I think when it first came out, the Metro had 12 inch rims. They should be lighter than 13 inch rims, right?

But going to a 12 inch rim would mean using a smaller diameter tire as well. And that would effectively reduce my gearing (making the engine spin faster at a given road speed). I expect that would reduce my fuel economy more than any savings I'd gain from the lighter rim/tire combo.

Also, my car has quite good low rolling resistance tires. If I could find a set of lighter rims that would fit, I'd want to keep using these tires.

roflwaffle 12-16-2007 06:13 AM


Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 2161)
I've read in various places that taking off 1 lb of rotating mass is the same as removing anywhere from 7 to 16 lbs elsewhere (there's the Internet for ya).

I believe this is primarily a concern for auto handling. From the POV of efficiency, weight is weight is weight. Dropping 10-15lbs of my vehicle weigh via lighter wheels is equivalent to dropping 10-15lbs off my ass. :thumbup:

MetroMPG 12-16-2007 11:03 AM

Thank you for questioning this. It forced me to do a bit more digging for a credible source on the subject --- and put this bit of fluff to rest: "taking off 1 lb of rotating mass is the same as removing anywhere from 7 to 16 lbs elsewhere"

First - agreed on the handling benefits of unsprung weight.

On the issue of rotating mass...


Dropping 10-15lbs of my vehicle weigh via lighter wheels is equivalent to dropping 10-15lbs off my ass.
In fact, you'd have to drop 20-30 lbs off your ass to equal it. The relationship is more like 1:2.

Here's a credible source giving an overview of the 1:2 relationship, in response to this question:


I just bought a set of nice chrome wheels with low profile tires for my car. Since these 4 wheels are 40 pounds heavier than the old ones, I removed 40 pounds of weight from the body of the car to compensate. My acceleration times and braking distances have increased dramatically. Why? (source)
And a perhaps less credible source adding to the above... with formulae!


As has been said here, and as I've heard elsewhere, lighter wheels can make a noticable difference in acceleration. Takes less work to get them rolling.

It does take less work: the kinetic energy in a circle rolling about its circumference is mv2. This is exactly twice the energy of a non-rotating mass moving at the same velocity, ½mv2.

So removing 5kg from your tires (if you could somehow remove the mass entirely from the part of the tire which is actually in contact in the road; removing it from the interior of the tire has less effect), would be the same as removing 10kg from the non-rotation portion of your car. (source)

SVOboy 12-16-2007 12:02 PM

It's not always 1:2, it depends on the distributions of the rotational mass. :)

MetroMPG 12-16-2007 12:11 PM

That's true. Both sources mention that. But it's more than 1:1!

roflwaffle 12-16-2007 12:24 PM

Based on what the almighty wikiality says, the second quote is incorrect since the distribution of weight on a car wheel isn't nearly as pronounced as on a bicycle, aka the ideal case of a mass at some distance from the center. Car wheels tend to be pretty beefy IME, and weigh more than or about the same as a tire, and since the disk or drum is rotating too, there's even more mass close to the center. This implies the moment of inertia is likely significantly less than .5mr^2 IMO. Offhand I would guess that a tire wheel combo has maybe ~25% more KE than a static body moving at the same speed.

This does bring up an interesting point though. If you've looked at tire specs, you may have noticed that wider tires weigh significantly more than their skinnier counterparts. Since all this weight is near the edge, I would guess that the choice of tire can influence acceleration/deceleration as much as or more than lighter wheels could.

That being said, the only fuel efficiency property that depends on mass in an ideal situation, Rolling resistance=mg(Crr), depends on mass alone AFAIK. While larger wheels/tires may hurt acceleration, braking, and handling, I don't see how they do anything to influence the energy needed to move a vehicle down the road.

MetroMPG 12-16-2007 12:39 PM

I haven't looked at tire specs, but what you say seems reasonable.

It also makes sense that wheel/tire mass makes little difference at constant speed.

But I'd still get the lighter wheels if I could. The majority of my fuel savings comes from the P&G technique = repeatedly accelerating (and at a fairly brisk rate). In those circumstances, or for driving that's primarily urban, it makes sense to reduce wheel/tire mass. For highway cruising or DWL, not so much.

About the question of RR being solely a mass issue, I wonder how much aerodynamic lift a typical car generates at highway speeds... :) (Just kidding.)

roflwaffle 12-16-2007 12:46 PM

I don't think it makes any difference at any speed unless the driver can't account for the increase in KE via having larger coasting distances. I mean, less mass is good for normal city traffic in that marginally less energy is lost when everyone gets on the brakes from some speed. But if we stay off the brakes, having more KE at some given speed isn't an issue at all since it'll just take us slightly farther as we coast down. IMO, lighter wheels just aren't worth the cash to those looking to get better mileage compared to just about anything else.

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