Built like the Dreamliner: 2013 debut of carbon composite cars

Sep 28, 2011

The revolutionary material used to build the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 super-jumbo jet, and the military's stealth jet fighter planes is coming down to Earth in a new generation of energy-saving automobiles expected to hit the roads during the next few years. That ultra-strong carbon fiber composite material — 50% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum — is the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS's weekly newsmagazine.

In the story, C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc S. Reisch describes how carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes, and Audi are turning to carbon fiber composites to reduce the weight and improve the mileage of their next-generation of electric and hybrid vehicles. Carbon fiber composites are plastics containing fine strands of carbon that are spun into fibers and woven into a fabric. Manufacturers lay the fabric into a mold with the shape of the final part, and soak it with epoxy or other resin to produce parts for aircraft and other products.

Despite concerns about the high cost of carbon fiber composites, automakers are embracing this energy-saving material, even though it may increase the cost of small electric or hybrid cars by $5,000 or more, the article notes. It describes major auto manufacturers' plans for marketing vehicles made with composites, and research underway to reduce the cost of the material.

Explore further: Making radiation-proof materials for electronics, power plants

More information: “Getting the Steel Out” pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/89/8939cover.html

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theken101
not rated yet Sep 30, 2011
Steel averages 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter, aluminum 2.7 grams. If carbon fiber is 30% lighter than aluminum, it would be 75% lighter than steel, not 50%.
jerryd
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011

Facts are you can get 45% reduction in body/chassis weight by using medium tech composites at under $2/lb vs 50% reduction at $20/lb for way over hyped CF.

But Detroit, etc uses the price of CF as an excuse to not make composites cars.

For instance I have a composite body/frame for a 2 seat sportswagon that only weighs 235lbs and is much stronger than a 450lb steel version.

Nor is production costs as composite production takes 5% of the cost of a steel production line. I have long experience in composite boat, etc production.

It's not just the 240lbs but the smaller brakes, wheels, battery pack, EV drive will cost. Using reasonable present costs in 10k units/yr one could build my 10 mile range 2 seat EV sportwagon for under $10k in lead batteries and $13k in lithium.

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