Shaving pounds off of new vehicles is essential to meeting upcoming fuel economy standards, and the best way to reduce weight without compromising strength is via the use of advanced materials. Carbon fiber, for example, is both light and incredibly strong; the downside to carbon fiber is that it’s also prohibitively expensive.
When you’re building a car like the Lamborghini Aventador
, which makes extensive use of carbon fiber and carbon composites, the cost of material used in production really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, when you’re building a mainstream sedan like the Ford Fusion
, the cost of material is a major concern.
To address the need for affordable, lightweight, high-strength materials, Ford is partnering with Dow Automotive Systems (a division of The Dow Chemical Company) to research the use of carbon fiber composites in mainstream, production vehicles.
Part of carbon fiber’s high cost comes from a labor-intensive manufacturing process that’s often difficult to automate. Ford’s partnership with Dow will examine new component manufacturing methods
for high-volume production, as well as establishing an economical source for automotive-grade carbon fiber.
Dow brings significant expertise to the partnership, as it has an existing relationship with Turkish carbon fiber manufacturer AKSA and has been working on material science projects with the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
If the development teams find a way to address the challenges posed by carbon fiber composites, the materials could become common in automotive applications by the end of the decade.