Ford Wants to Make Carbon Fiber Cheaper and Put It In Everything
We’re still reeling from the reveal of the Ford GT at the North American International Auto Show this morning, and one of the most exciting facets of a vehicle comprised almost entirely of exciting facts is the extensive use of carbon fiber in the frame and body panels.
Ford announced during its presser that it is teaming with DowAksa to develop new methods for carbon fiber production that will increase manufacturing volume while keeping costs low, making the low-weight/high-strength material more readily available for production vehicles.
“Our collaboration with DowAksa and participation in this organization significantly boosts what we are able to achieve,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “We have a true alliance of highly talented people working to take automotive materials to the next level.”
Ford and DowAksa—a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş.—have been working together to increase the availability of carbon fiber since 2012. The new Ford GT, which uses a great deal of carbon fiber and will be available in a limited production run next year, could be the first salvo in the quest to make widespread use of carbon fiber in cars a reality.
Prior to the launch of the 2017 GT, Ford will fit the 2016 Shelby GT350R Mustang with carbon fiber wheels, making it the first vehicle ever produced by a major automaker to offer carbon fiber wheels as standard equipment.
“Our goal is to develop a material that can greatly reduce vehicle weight in support of improved fuel economy for our customers,” said Patrick Blanchard, Ford supervisor, Composites Group. “The flexibility of the technology allows us to develop materials for all vehicle subsystems across the product line – resulting in a weight savings of more than 50 percent compared to steel.”
Ford previously demonstrated the usefulness of carbon fiber materials in the Lightweight Concept Fusion, which cut the weight of a stock Fusion to that of a Fiesta through lightweighting techniques that included the use of carbon fiber wheels and springs.