A set of Tesla’s new Model 3 Sports aerodynamic wheels for the Chinese market has made it to the US, and it might make a few owners jealous.
With the Model 3, Tesla has spent a lot of efforts on its wheel development.
The standard wheel is an 18-inch with aerodynamic caps to cover the wheel and improve aerodynamic performance.
In a post last year, Robert Palin, who has held many positions in Tesla’s aerodynamics team since 2009, explained how important the wheels were to the Model 3’s design:
I was the head of aero at Tesla for MS, MX, and M3, and I can confirm that wheel design and size can be the biggest influence of all on the aero efficiency of a road car. The aero, design, and chassis teams put a huge amount of effort into these wheels, and they do really work!
Palin explained the aero caps:
With casting there’s a minimum thickness of 10-12 mm at the perimeter, making wheels like this obscenely heavy. With the cap approach they’re the lightest wheel design Tesla has ever done, and with very low rotational inertia. A lot of effort went into the integration of the cap so that it sits flush at the rim, and not on the outside if it, as on all the other wheel caps you’ll see. Having multi-part and multi-material wheels is the best way to satisfy multiple optimization goals. The thought with these wheels that having the latest tech on the latest car would be more appropriate than more traditional rims.
A Tesla VP of engineering also previously said that Tesla Model 3’s aero wheels can increase efficiency by ~10% versus the bigger non-aero 19-inch wheels.
The 19-inch wheels have a more traditional design.
However, for the Chinese Model 3 Performance, Tesla released a different “Power Sports” 19-inch wheel with an aerodynamic design.
We saw them appear in Tesla’s Chinese design studio earlier this year, but now a Tesla owner and Youtuber DÆrik bought a set from an owner in China and brought them back in the US:
It gives us our best look at the Tesla “Power Sports” 19-inch wheels to date.
We now see that they are also equipped with aero caps:
It turns out that the Chinese 19-inch aero wheels are only 0.8 pounds heavier than standard 18-inch wheels, which weigh 49 pounds.
Now that we had a closer look at wheels, they seem very similar to the ones used by Tesla on Model Y prototypes.
Tesla has been focusing more on aero wheels lately. We reported on Tesla’s new Model S aero wheels leaking in the automaker’s software update last month.
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