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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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RE: Cool, but...
By kleinma on 10/9/2012 4:21:39 PM , Rating: 1
Because when you walk into the dealership and they say "look at this state of the art carbon fiber hood, 5x as strong as steel and a half the weight, allowing the vehicle to have better performance without guzzling more gas" you are more likely to be interested than "look at our brand new model, with.. well, um, yeah its made of plastic, but on the up side, you can recycle remember how awesome those saturn vehicles were, oh you don't remember that car brand, yeah well they closed down a little while back.."

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/9/2012 4:32:46 PM , Rating: 2
Firstly, lots of really expensive vehicles use plastic bodywork. Like the ~$32,500 Bimota DB5 RE motorcycle.

Plastic != cheap vehicle.

Plastic is significantly lighter than steel, naturally. And ridiculously less expensive than carbon fiber.

If a $20,000 car costs $22,000 with a carbon fiber hood, or $19,000 with all-plastic bodywork...and gets the benefit of lighter weight for better MPG...guess which one is going to sell better? Especially to the ~99% of all people in the world who don't know what carbon fiber is, and don't care?

RE: Cool, but...
By Guspaz on 10/10/2012 12:14:57 AM , Rating: 2
You can also sell the plastic body with scientific-sounding buzzwords. "advanced polymer plating" or something. Use self-healing plastic and you can both throw in some extra buzzwords and make it much more scratch-resistant.

RE: Cool, but...
By fredgiblet on 10/10/2012 5:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
That actually how Saturn did it.

"Polymer! Can you say that!?"

RE: Cool, but...
By Richard875yh5 on 10/11/2012 9:13:28 AM , Rating: 2
Right on!

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

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