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Ferrari's Future Cars Staying Aluminum, Not Carbon Fiber

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2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

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The battle of lightweight materials is becoming one of many players.

Companies like Mazda are striving to cut down weight with clever use of high-strength steels. Lotus has always gone the way of plastic composite bodies. Even magnesium has been suggested for reducing weight. Ferrari and McLaren have taken two other routes - aluminum for the former, and carbon-fiber with the latter.

According to Popular Mechanics, the Prancing Horse is unlikely to change any time soon.

It's a question of cost, ease of manufacture and lightness, says Ferrari engineer Patrizio Moruzzi. Previous Ferrari supercars such as the 1995 F50 and 2002 Enzo have used expensive and highly time-consuming carbon fiber construction, where the shapes of the tub and body panels are all individually laid out and baked.

It takes about a day to make a car this way, but aluminum construction lets Ferrari build nearer 30 cars a day.

There's very little weight penalty either when comparing aluminum to mass-produced carbon fiber. When injecting carbon fibers and resin into a mould for quick production, the end result weighs little different to aluminum, while being more expensive and difficult to repair in the event of an accident.

Ferrari likes the wide scope of aluminum components too - the metal can be used in everything from stamped sheet metal for body panels, through aluminum castings and extrusions for certain components.

They're fastened together with a mix of welding, rivets, sheet-metal screws and epoxy bonding. Ferrari is aiming towards more widespread use of lightweight and strong epoxy glue in future models - a method pioneered by Lotus in its 1996 Elise.

As Popular Mechanics points out, steel will still be the dominant material in more down-to-earth cars for some time to come. It's cheaper to construct with, easier (and therefore cheaper) to repair, and modern techniques have allowed weight to start coming down too.

For supercars though, the materials race is likely to follow two paths for quite some time to come.
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