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Ford's carbon fiber hood prototype   (Source: Ford Motor Company)
The new carbon fiber hood prototype weighs more than 50 percent less than the standard steel versions, yet is five times as strong as steel

Ford is looking to make its vehicles even more fuel efficient with a new prototype carbon fiber hood that weighs less than traditional versions. 
The Ford European Research Centre partnered with Dow Automotive Systems in the Hightech.NRW research project to develop the carbon fiber hood prototype. Ford also collaborated with the Institute of Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Toho Tenax, Composite Impulse, Henkel, IKV (Institute of Plastics Processing) and Evonik. 
The new carbon fiber hood prototype weighs more than 50 percent less than the standard steel versions, yet is five times as strong as steel. The carbon fiber is also twice as stiff as steel and will reduce the weight of Ford vehicles by about 750 pounds by the end of the decade. 
"It's no secret that reducing a vehicle's weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption, but a process for fast and affordable production of carbon fibre automotive parts in large numbers has never been available," said Inga Wehmeyer, advanced materials and processes research engineer for Ford European Research Centre. "By partnering with materials experts through the Hightech.NRW research project, Ford is working to develop a solution that supports cost efficient manufacturing of carbon fibre components." 
The project started in 2010 and is expected to continue until September 2013. In that time frame, Ford and its partners set out to develop cost effective methods for carbon fiber manufacturing; reduce individual component production times; reduce the amount of finishing work required; meet requirements for painting, and reduce the component weight by at least 50 percent. 
"There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president of Research and Innovation. "Improving the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reducing the amount of work that powertrains need to do. 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."
So far, the outcome has been a prototype carbon fiber hood that weighs more than 50 percent less than standard steel. The carbon fiber hood was placed in a Ford Focus at the Composites Europe event in Dusseldorf, Germany. Early testing suggests that it will meet Ford's standards for dent resistance, crash performance and stiffness. 

Increasing fuel efficiency is crucial right now, considering the White House finalized the 54.5 MPG Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for 2017-2025 model years back in August of this year. The new standards aim to cut oil consumption/dependency, greenhouse gas emissions and encourage green vehicle adoption. 

Source: Ford

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Good idea
By kitfox on 10/9/2012 3:57:09 PM , Rating: 2
This is a much better approach than what alot of manufacturers have been doing to reduce weight (im looking at you toyota!)

RE: Good idea
By Mitch101 on 10/9/2012 4:11:58 PM , Rating: 2
Im thinking about the drivers and passengers. Just Sayin.

RE: Good idea
By kleinma on 10/9/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good idea
By Mitch101 on 10/9/2012 4:30:08 PM , Rating: 2
Reduction of Weight.

RE: Good idea
By spread on 10/9/2012 4:54:00 PM , Rating: 2
He's saying the vehicle needs to come with a year's supply of coupons for vegetables and lean water.

RE: Good idea
By lagomorpha on 10/9/2012 8:08:10 PM , Rating: 1
lean water.

As opposed to fatty water? Is there something you fatties know that I don't?

RE: Good idea
By Solandri on 10/9/2012 6:04:22 PM , Rating: 2
One of the chief safety engineers from BMW gave us a lecture one day in one of my structural engineering courses at MIT. Safety is actually pretty low in the totem pole in the design process. Basically the artist decides the shape of the car. The other engineers figure out how to squeeze all the components within that shape. Then at the very end they tell this guy "You can add 50 pounds of steel. Make this car pass the government and insurance safety tests."

So the vast majority of the weight in the car isn't vital to safety. The few pieces that are (primarily crumple zones) will likely remain metal, because metal absorbs a huge amount of energy as it deforms. But swapping out large amount of the weight of a car with plastic or carbon fiber shouldn't detract from its safety appreciably.

It may dramatically increase repair costs though, as someone else pointed out.

RE: Good idea
By NellyFromMA on 10/9/2012 4:32:28 PM , Rating: 2
Cool. Does it lead to me actually saving money or drive my costs up? Up? Oh, Who cares then?

RE: Good idea
By ctodd on 10/9/2012 4:33:14 PM , Rating: 2
Just yesterday I took my 2012 Dodge Durango into a touchless car wash and on the final step when it dries the car; on the second pass the air attempted to lift my hood up. I serously thought it was going to pop it out of place. I've leaned on the hood before and thought it was going to cave in. It is extremely thin material. So, Toyota isn't the only one.

RE: Good idea
By jeffkro on 10/9/2012 6:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
So don't stand on your hood.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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