Few automakers have put as much emphasis on weight savings as Ford has, swapping the steel body of the F-150 for an aluminum one that shaves over 700 pounds off of the truck’s curb weight. It will take more than just recycled beer cans to build the cars of the future, and Ford has signed a deal with DowAska to develop low-cost carbon fiber for mass production.
DowAska is itself a joint company formed by Dow Chemical and Turkey-based carbon fiber builder Aska, and Ford will form 50% of a new joint venture aimed specifically at the automotive market. The joint-development agreement (JDA) seeks to “…advance research on cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing of automotive-grade carbon fiber, a material poised to play a significant role in the drive to make vehicles lighter for greater fuel efficiency, performance and capability.”
Ford offers very limited carbon fiber offerings, though it did trot out a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) hood concept last year that it hopes to put into production soon. Meanwhile competitors like BMW already offer cars like the i3 and i8, which utilize carbon fiber cores to shed hundreds of pounds. This technology is finding its way into larger cars too, and BMW is investing big money into producing carbon fiber on a massive scale.
The U.S. government is encouraging lightweight vehicle technology too, and the whole industry seems to be on board with losing weight. We may finally see automobiles return to more reasonable weights, and it could happen as early as 2025. It’s not just Americans that have been getting fatter; our cars are too, and it may take a high fiber diet to get both back in shape.