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Ford seeks low-cost carbon-fibre

Lightweight: Ford will look to greater use of carbon fibre in future vehicles, which may resemble the Evos concept seen left.

Blue Oval to partner with Dow Automotive in development of cheaper carbon-fibre

Ford logo13 Apr 2012


FORD will turn to one of the world’s largest manufacturers of advanced materials to help it develop low-cost carbon-fibre composites for high-volume vehicles.

In an announcement today, the Blue Oval confirmed it had undertaken a partnership with Dow Automotive Systems – part of Dow Chemical – to help it slash up to 340kg per vehicle from its fleet of cars and trucks by 2020.

According to Ford’s chief technical officer, Paul Mascarenas, the use of weight-saving materials is a key plank in the quest to meet stringent new fuel-efficiency targets alongside engine downsizing and the electrification of volume vehicles like the Focus.

“Ford is tackling the conversion problem primarily through downsizing engines with EcoBoost and electrification, while mass reduction and improved aerodynamics are keys to reducing the workload,” he said.

In July last year, the Obama administration announced that auto-makers would have to improve the average fuel economy of their fleet to 4.3 litres per 100km by 2025.

While carbon-fibre is already widely used on high-performance vehicles for both road and track, the material remains expensive for use in high-volume, mainstream applications.

Ford says the agreement will see researchers from the two companies collaborating on ways to make the material more economical and easy to produce in larger commercial quantities.

The joint development will leverage work already conducted by Dow Chemical alongside Turkish carbon-fibre producer AKSA and the US Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Should it be successful, Ford claims the new carbon-fibre components could start to appear on the brand’s new vehicles from the latter part of this decade.

Ford is not the first automotive powerhouse to form an alliance with a technology company in the development of carbon-fibre composites, with arch-rival General Motors announcing a similar arrangement alongside Japanese company Teijin last December.

The deal resulted in the establishment of the Teijin Composites Application Centre in GM’s home state of Michigan in the quest to create a material that Teijin claims is “ten times stronger than regular-grade steel yet only one-quarter of the weight”.

Similar arrangements have also been struck by car-maker BMW, which teamed up with German company SGL on future product like the lightweight electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8, as well as Audi (Voith) and Mercedes-Benz (Toray).

The Ford deal also coincides with a deal announced by the Obama administration last month that will see $US14.2 million ($A13.7m) in funding made available to accelerate the development and deployment of lightweight materials on cars and trucks.

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