Aluminum and Magnesium Wheel Advantages for Automotive Performance in Luxury and Sport Applications

Aluminum and Magnesium Wheel Advantages for Automotive Performance in Luxury and Sport Applications

Mark Lisnyansky, President of Magnesium Inc. notes that, “Wheel weight is very important to overall performance as it is key component in “un-sprung” vehicle mass. Generally, the accepted rule for thumb for predicting performance benefits from sprung vs. un-sprung weight reduction is a factor of approximately 4:1. For every pound of un-sprung mass eliminated a four fold advantage is gained in vehicle performance parameters. For example, forged magnesium, large diameter wheels ( 20″-22″) increase the weight advantage over aluminum by eliminating, on average, 70-75 lbs. un-sprung mass, which would provide the same acceleration time and braking distance benefit as eliminating 250-300 pounds from the vehicle engine, chassis or passenger compartment.” Mr. Lisnyansky goes on to say that, “By virtue of these lighter wheels, forged wheels are at least 20% lighter, sustaining equal loads with better characteristics, which is always easier on the car and its suspension. Lighter wheels also yield shorter breaking distance, which saves lives, shorter acceleration and reduces fuel consumption.”

The forged aluminum and magnesium wheel manufacturing process is critical to wheel strength. They are produced by applying extremely high forces to base material in a contained die. The forged wheel blanks, or “pre-forms”, undergo very beneficial changes in metallurgical grain structure during this process. The more random grain structure found in standard cast wheels becomes a more highly organized and aligned grain structure when wheels are forged. More importantly, forged wheel metallurgical microstructure in both aluminum and magnesium can be further oriented in the forging process to provide the highest material strength exactly where wheels see the highest loading from road surface hazards or from lateral and other loading generated by the vehicles own inertia. Going one step further, today’s advanced computer aided modeling techniques allow the wheel manufacturer and the automaker to collaborate in optimizing a specific forged wheel geometry and design for the utmost strength and safety on the vehicle.

SMW Engineering, a division of is a leader in developing magnesium wheels. Engineers at acknowledge another important feature of forged wheels over low pressure cast wheels is the integrity of surface finish achievable. Most final wheel styles and finish combinations are enhanced by the density and uniformity of cosmetic surfaces on forged wheels. This is particularly important on higher-end vehicle applications where a bright wheel finish is desired but chrome plating is not an alternative due to mass, cost and environmental considerations. Forged, bright polished wheels certainly make a dramatic addition to the vehicles appearance and aesthetics.

While forging processing cost is higher than the standard, low-pressure casting process used on wheels that come as original equipment on many vehicles, even the most cost-conscious auto manufacturers do install forged wheels on their highest performing vehicles. By optimizing wheel strength through process and material choices, the many benefits in overall vehicle performance will make forged magnesium wheels one of the key milestones in upcoming production vehicle refinement, performance and safety improvement.

Technology in forging magnesium wheels is always advancing. With the new technologies come new applications in forging and coating. SMW Engineering and are researching and testing new design methods regularly. The racing world, automotive and motorcycle, has for some time adopted magnesium wheels as efficient tools for weight reduction, better handling and increased performance. Luxury car and bike manufacturers are now meeting consumer interest and demand for not only high-performance magnesium wheels but exclusively designed and coated magnesium wheels. recently announced the introduction of one-piece, forged magnesium wheels for street use in North America. The wheels are 20 to 30 percent lighter than forged aluminum and offer increased safety and performance.

“The U.S. wheel market is quite formidable and we intend to supply a smaller but very important segment of the 100 million vehicle wheels used in North America,” said Mark Lisnyansky, President of “We will provide the best-in-class wheels that automakers can offer as an option on new vehicles and consumers can add to their present vehicles.”

The magnesium alloy wheels are initially available in 20 and 22-inch sizes, and are treated with a high-tech anti-corrosion coating. The company will also be developing wheels in various sizes and compositions for specific North American applications.

“Steel wheels are becoming nearly obsolete and the prevailing trend is toward cast aluminum wheels. While most people are not familiar with forged wheels, performance car enthusiasts know that forged wheels offer significant advantages, and forged magnesium wheels, which are lighter and much stronger than their aluminum counterparts, are the next logical step in optimizing vehicle performance.”

Magnesium wheels offer consumers improved safety by shortening braking distances and delivering higher acceleration rates as well as improving gas mileage. There is also the dampening factor of magnesium, which allows for vibrations caused by road imperfections to be absorbed six times more effectively.

Mr. Lisnyansky added that along with the safety aspects, “forged magnesium wheels will also provide appreciable impact to vehicle performance by decreasing un-sprung mass, an important performance factor.”

Using specialized aviation industry equipment, the company has been producing Superbike and Formula One competition wheels for many years. The wheels are forged in Russia by a subsidiary and then machined and finished in Italy.

Why not build a finishing line in Russia? “Prospective customers, primarily automotive original equipment manufacturers, often require the comfort level of having their suppliers’ wheels produced locally, even if the forging itself arrives from Russia,” Lisnyansky said. recently held a “Best New Wheel Design” competition, and is negotiating with several large distributors to establish a joint machining and finishing facility in the U.S. The company is considering an acquisition of or a joint venture with a local wheel company with an existing high-end market presence and brand name recognition.