50% less weight than steel and less process time.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Oct. 9, 2012
2013 Ford Focus with an extremely light Carbon Fiber hood.
Ford develops carbon fiber technology that will provide more fuel-efficient vehicles but can they do it for a price that makes sense? Can they afford not to?
Ford of Europe demonstrated a prototype carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) hood that will help improve fuel economy and performance for future models looking forward.
The CFRP displayed at the Composites Europe event in Dusseldorf is constructed from the super-strong material usually associated with racing or exotic sports cars.
According to the Ford release, the prototype hood weighs more than 50 percent less than a standard steel version. In addition, the research project is resulting in production times for an individual CFRP hoods that is fast enough to be employed on a production line!
The involvement of Ford European Research Center in the research project follows Ford’s partnership with Dow Automotive Systems; a collaboration announced earlier this year that will investigate new materials, design processes and manufacturing techniques.
Dow Automotive Systems and Ford will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade CFRP, as well as high-volume manufacturing methods.
CFRP offers a very high strength-to-weight ratio, is up to five times as strong as steel, twice as stiff, and one-third the weight. Advanced materials such as carbon fiber are key to Ford’s plans to [b]reduce the weight of its cars by up to 750 pounds[b/] by the end of the decade.
Paul Mascarenas, Ford CTO and VP of Research and Innovation said it best with the following prepared statement:
“There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles. Improve the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reduce the amount of work that powertrains need to do.”
Ford has partnered with the Institute of Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Henkel, Evonik, IKV (Institute of Plastics Processing), Composite Impulse and Toho Tenax for the course of the Hightech.NRW research project.
Funded by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the project began in 2010 and, despite being set to continue until September 2013, has already made significant progress towards its targets of:
- Developing a cost effective method to manufacture carbon fiber composites for body panel applications that can be incorporated into existing vehicle production processes
- Significantly reducing individual component production times
- Reducing the amount of finishing work required to acceptable standards
- Meeting requirements for painting
- At least 50 percent reduction in component weight
The refined gap-impregnation process works by introducing resin to pre-formed carbon fiber textile material in a fast, stable and adaptable manner, with high quality results.
Internal testing suggests that CFRP components can and will meet Ford’s standards for stiffness, dent resistance and crash performance. The component has also performed well in pedestrian protection head-impact tests, thanks to its innovative construction of a special foam core sandwiched between two layers of CFRP.
While we wait for the magic to occur, researchers from around the world are busy searching for a cost effective way to bring the weight down while providing more value for the $’s spent to procure, produce/manufacture and ultimately sell these products over the mid-term.
With Mazda’s release of the Mazda6 equipped with the 2.2L SKYACTIV weighing just 3,069 pounds (European spec), it sounds like many manufacturers have figured out how to reduce weight with the cost effective HSS materials at their disposal today. Just wait until they begin incorporating cost effective CFRP composites into their processes