Along with all automakers, MINI and BMW are re-evaluating every aspect of the car to reduce drag and gain efficiency. Key to this is wheel design. MINI’s first stab at this are the 17” wheels seen on the higher spec MINI Cooper SE. While the asymmetrical design gets top-billing, it’s the wind-cheating characteristics that subtly drives the design. Interestingly, in talking with MINI head designer Oliver Heilmer the goal was to downplay the aero-drive design. They’ve done this by the use of color, texture, and overall design. BMW has taken a similar approach with what they’re unimaginatively calling the BMW Aerodynamic Wheel. Name aside, the wheel features a more 3 dimensional design than most aero wheels on the market and looks more muscular thanks to it. It’s also easily customizable given the plastic inserts.
Look for more aero driven wheel designs from MINI and BMW in the years ahead. Specifically for BMW that means the 2021 iX3 and i4 and iNEXT electric BMWs. For MINI, we’ll see a full family of new wheel designs on the next generation cars debuting in 2022 and beyond.
To get a better understanding of what goes into the wheel design and what MINI and BMW get out of it in terms of benefits, read the full press release on the new Aerodynamic wheels below.
Official Release: The New Shape of BMW Wheels
In today’s automobiles, the wheels and their aerodynamic flow influence the overall vehicle efficiency by up to 30%. That is why a further developed technology of the BMW Aerodynamic Wheel is making its debut together with the BMW iX3, whose market launch is planned for 2020: The new combination of aluminum base wheel and individually designed inserts complements the efficient basic alignment of the BMW Group’s first purely electric Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) effectively.
While reducing drag for about 5% compared to a conventionally powered BMW X3 the new Aerodynamic Wheels are not only more efficient but also lighter than previous ones: Thanks to optimum airflow around the wheel arches, the wheels are 15% lighter than the aerodynamic wheels previously fitted by BMW.
Their benefits in terms of aerodynamics and weight have the overall effect of lowering power consumption for the BMW iX3 by another 2% in the European WLTP test cycle – equating to 0.4 kWh/100 km – and thereby extending the vehicle range by 10 kilometres. The wheels’ appearance can be varied in numerous different ways, enabling a vast variety of possibilities for the design of wheels on future models. The new Aerodynamic Wheels will also feature on the BMW iNext and BMW i4, which are going to be introduced in 2021.
The Aerodynamic Wheels on the BMW iX3 blend lightweight construction and reduced air resistance with the sporting elegance of a V?spoke aluminium wheel in a whole new way. The dimensions of the base wheel ensure the wheel living up to all the structural challenges involved in transmitting dynamic driving forces. Inserts with a high-class finish are responsible for achieving the necessary aerodynamic impact. This new division of tasks heralds a substantial weight saving over previous aerodynamic wheels from BMW.
Furthermore, the new base wheel is made using less material than its precursor adding up to the reduction of unsprung mass by lightweight inserts. This enhances both, driving dynamics and efficiency. Additionally, the mix of materials is benefitting a resource-efficient manufacture, as there is no need for further tools to produce special wheel options with optimised aerodynamics.
To fit the lightweight base wheel, the inserts are precision-moulded and integrated into the outside of the wheel between the spokes. Thus, they are highly effective in reducing wheel-arch air turbulence – and therefore aerodynamic drag. As a result, the Aerodynamic Wheels form a key element of the overall package developed for optimum efficiency of the BMW iX3.
Design variants enable maximum individualisation.
The BMW Group is the first automobile manufacturer to combine cast aluminum wheels with inserts consisting of a plastic carrier and an aluminum visible surface.
The high-quality material used for the inserts and their precise integration into the wheel design with no visible gaps reinforce the premium character of the rims. The patented process for optimising aerodynamic properties while minimising weight opens an unprecedented scope for vehicle customisation.
The Aerodynamic Wheels can be painted in different colours while the customer can also choose between matt or polished finish, just as known from conventional wheels. All versions of the base wheel can be fitted with inserts whose appearance can vary in endless ways according to the sheen, polish and pattern specified. This means that, for example colour accents from the body design can be incorporated into the inserts’ styling. Furthermore, inserts can also be combined with different surface designs within a single wheel. The end result is a multitude of aerodynamically optimised wheel possibilities, each with a design that matches the vehicle’s character, the equipment line selected and the customer’s individual preferences.