In an effort to bring down the weight of vehicles, large automakers are looking to all sorts of alternatives to steel. Carbon fiber is light, strong, and expensive, but Ford may have found a way to employ many of the benefits on mass production vehicles. They call it Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, and a hood made from CFRP is 50% lighter than a standard steel hood.
Carbon fiber is one of the most promising and futuristic materials on the market today. It is five-times stronger and two-thirds lighter than steel while being twice as stiff, making it a promising alternative as automakers look to shed weight and improve fuel economy. But it is also expensive and the process of making it is time consuming, so mass production isn’t really attainable.
Ford’s CFRP hood concept is supposedly 50% lighter than a conventional steel hood, while having a much shorter assembly time. This means mass production might be possible in a cost effective way. Since hoods are one of the heaviest (and usually simplest) single body panels on an automobile, it is the perfect place to start. Depending on the car, you could be shedding 50 pounds or more per vehicle.
While carbon fiber is used in limited quantities on some supercars like the $100,000 Corvette ZR1, full-blown carbon fiber cars like the upcoming Ferrari F70 hybrid or $537,000 Mercedes SLS AMG Electric Drive supercar come with price tags much, much higher. But if Ford can pioneer the use of affordable carbon fiber body panels, it could give them a distinct edge in lightening their cars and improving fuel economy. The Blue Oval wants to drop as much as 700 pounds per vehicle by 2020 to help meet higher fuel economy standards and expectations. This CFRP hood could be a big part of the equation.
Source: Plastics Today