Toyota’s Lexus LFA supercar program is over – but the lessons Toyota learned from building the light weight, ultra-fast exotics are going to carry forward into the future of Toyota’s mainstream cars, if the latest reports are to be believed.
Over the years, several companies have justified spending serious money on supercars and motorsports by using the high-stress environment provided by motorsport to accelerate development of new technologies. Anti-lock brakes, fuel injection, turbochargers, kinetic recovery braking, ceramic braking materials, and – yes – the use of carbon composite materials were all developed in and for motorsports before the kinks and economies of scale allowed their transfer to everyday transportation appliances. Carbon fiber is significantly stronger than steel or aluminum by weight (and, if designed properly, by volume), so cars made with carbon fiber frames could be just as strong as steel-framed cars, while weighing up to 65% less.
It should be no surprise, then, that carbon fiber is trickling down – especially in car markets, like the US, that are beginning to require lighter, more fuel-efficient cars that are still capable of passing tough safety tests.
At the moment, the LFA is the only Toyota using the material in a high percentage of its parts. The company’s carbon fiber looms, however, won’t pay for themselves laying idle – especially now that Toyota has pulled out of Formula 1. You can get a sense of how those work in the video, below, and start getting ready for lighter, more fuel-efficient Camrys that are stronger and safer than the ones you see today.