Carbon-fiber is seen by many in the auto industry as one of the most effective ways of reducing vehicle weight and improving fuel economy and emissions levels, but the relative expense of the material means that it’s still reserved for only a handful of high-end production cars. BMW has effectively used carbon-fiber roofs for its M cars to help lower their center of gravity, and Nissan and General Motors have used the composite material to help save weight for the GT-R and ZR1 supercars.
While most of the cars only featured the carbon-fiber in their structure or body panels, in the future cars could be equipped with more complicated components constructed from the lightweight stuff.
One example could be a MacPherson suspension strut constructed from carbon-fiber like this example designed by automotive parts giant ZF. This particular concept MacPherson strut has been designed for compact minicars and could appear in such cars as the upcoming BMW MegaCity vehicle, which will be composed largely of carbon-fiber. While the concept can be adapted to bigger vehicles, this initial design can only accommodate vehicles weighing less than 2,000 pounds.
ZF’s design for the MacPherson strut features an integrated wheel carrier and piston rod made from carbon-fiber, along with a fiberglass spring and plastic top mounting plate. Beneath the carbon-fiber structural elements, there is still a damper tube made from steel to provide a durable wear surface. The resulting weight saving is about 6.5 to 9 pounds at each wheel.
Don’t hold your breath as the first production examples aren’t expected until around 2014.
[ZF via Automobile Magazine]