We’ve reached a very interesting time in the automotive industry. On one hand, rising fuel prices mean that efficiency is more of a concern than ever. On the other hand, automakers dare not turn back the clock on performance and safety, as consumers have become used to a certain level of luxury and quality in their cars. So how do you make a safe car that is also lightweight? Ford is exploring the use of carbon fiber in their cars…but will it drive new car prices even higher?
In a word, yes. Carbon fiber is an incredible substance, as strong as it is light. Many high end exotic cars and purpose-built racers utilize carbon fiber. But these are the kind of people for whom price is not a problem. Ford needs to sell lots of cars to lots of people, and by 2020, they hope to cut between 250 and 750 pounds from each car in its lineup.
That is a considerable amount of weight that will make reaching higher fuel efficiency standards, as well as the call for an exciting driving experience, easier to attain. Ford is working with Dow Chemical to integrate carbon fiber into its cars, though it is also considering the use of magnesium in trucks and aluminum in cars as a way to save weight.
Ford isn’t alone, as GM is also working on integrating carbon fiber into its cars. A weight savings of 10% can improve fuel economy by as much as 8%, though less weight will likely translate into a costlier car. If you think new cars are expensive now, wait until those new fuel economy standards start kicking in.