Carbon fiber is becoming more commonplace than ever, and in the name of weight savings, the material may be making its way into more and more components in more and more common cars.
One of those components is future Ford subframes.
A collaborative effort between Ford and the automotive supplier Magna Inernational has yielded a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe, which reduces mass by 34 percent compared to an equivalent steel subframe. And at a time when lightweighting is becoming a key engineering solution, this prototype presents itself as a potentially groundbreaking way to design more efficient vehicles.
Magna and Ford looked at the entire subframe assembly and were able to identify 45 steel parts as places to reduce mass. With this prototype subframe, the 45 parts were replaced with just two molded and four metallic parts, making for an 87 percent reduction in the number of parts used.
The subframe is an integral part of the vehicle, giving the suspension, wheels, and engine a home while also providing the basis of a vehicle’s crash worthiness. And, in that regard, the prototype design has passed all performance requirements based on a computer-aided engineering analysis.
Magna will carry out further testing in which corrosion, chipping, and bolt load retention will be evaluated. Following that phase, the team will develop a design, manufacturing, and assembly process to make the prototype a reality.
Magna has already begun producing the prototype subframes for its own testing and announced Ford will carry out its own component and vehicle-level testing, too.
No final decision has been made that this will indeed be a commonly used Ford component in the near future. We also don't know what vehicles it might be used in or when, but the fact that both companies are moving forward with testing and develop indicates promise.
As carbon fiber becomes less expensive, expect the material to begin showing up in more places as it transitions from the stuff of supercars, to the material of choice for your next commuter car.