Who would have thought that reinventing the wheel could help in making it into a sustainability-focused competition. But, this is exactly what has happened to a team of students at Columbia University. The students have succeeded in entering into the next round of Walmart’s Better Living Business Plan Challenge. The team has come up with a business plan that would deal with making energy efficient, lightweight composite wheels for buses, trucks and other large vehicles.
Bicyclists and ATV enthusiasts have already been introduced to lightweight composite wheels, but heavier vehicles are still far from its use. The team hopes to change things. The major areas of concern for providing lightweight composite wheels to heavy vehicles are durability and cost. If the fuel savings is high enough, even a relatively expensive wheel could result in significant savings for fleets of vehicles, at least the larger ones.
The bicycles use carbon fiber as one of the composite materials, while ATV wheels prefer a glass-carbon composite. The team is now advancing to bring the technology to heavier vehicles. It is anticipated that the team with three Boeing employees as members took inspiration for the project by seeing the growing use of durable, lightweight composite materials in aircraft. Advancing in the competition has given the team a chance to pitch the plan to top Walmart execs and earn seed money to get started.