Technology moves fast, and many of those companies once considered “cutting edge” have long been relegated to the history books. When Ford Motor Company was founded, there were literally hundreds of automakers spread out across the U.S.–but today, just a handful of brands have survived into the 21st century.
But Popular Science, perhaps better known as PopSci, predates every automaker with its 1872 founding, and the magazine continues to remain relevant, especially its “Best of What’s New” segment. This year, the Shelby GT350’s carbon fiber wheels were one of just a few automotive technologies to earn this lofty endorsement from the 144-year publication.
The wheels, weighing as little as 15 pounds apiece, are a peek at the future of the automobile industry as a whole. Ostenibily shedding weight to improve acceleration and reduce weight, while also improving handling through higher rigidity, carbon fiber wheels may one day become commonplace as a way to increase the driving range of all cars.
The Shelby’s carbon fiber wheels are also the first application of this technology incorporated in a mass-produced vehicle (unlike some of the exotics and hypercars that have been offering this technology for years). With the price of carbon fiber production falling, automakers can increasingly make the case for its use throughout vehicles, although these particular wheels still command a pretty penny.
Yet it’s not so far fetched to imagine a day when the entire Mustang is made from carbon fiber, or a derivative of it. BMW’s “affordable” electric car, the i3, starts at $44,000 and makes extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic; shedding as much as 700 pounds compared with a normal steel body.
Carbon fiber could be the future for the Mustang; and that future starts with the GT350 and its carbon fiber wheels.