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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 FITCamaro on 10/9/2012 4:39:25 PM , Rating: 2
The cool but is 50% less weight and 5x as strong as but also 5x as expensive to repair in the event of an accident. You ccan't hammer a ding out of a carbon fiber hood.

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/9/2012 4:43:41 PM , Rating: 2
That is eminently true. And someone looking to buy, say, a Ford Focus isn't likely to be swayed to pay an extra couple grand for the vehicle because it has a carbon fiber hood. Or carbon fiber anything.

While you couldn't pound a dent out of a plastic body panel could economically throw it away and buy a new one. And get the benefit of lighter weight/better MPG.

RE: Cool, but...
By Spuke on 10/9/2012 6:32:53 PM , Rating: 4
They're not going to market carbon fiber. They'll market 5 mpg or whatever better than last years car.

RE: Cool, but...
By lagomorpha on 10/9/2012 7:59:50 PM , Rating: 2
A normal hood on a car that size weighs 25-30 lbs. Even if you switched to a magical massless material, 30 pounds will not get you 5mpg in a >3000 lbs car.

It's not going to be easy to market a $900 option that gives a 0.001% fuel efficiency increase. At least not to adults.

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/9/2012 9:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed. You'd have to replace all the body panels with carbon fiber and then maybe save a couple hundred pounds. But if the car weighed 3,000 pounds to begin with, and now weighs 2,800 pounds...well. The difference isn't that big. Especially when you factor in what would surely be several thousand dollars added to the sticker price due to the carbon fiber.

200 pounds out of 3,000 is about 6.7%. If the car got 30 MPG before, and if we pretend that would scale linearly with weight (it wouldn't), then the car would now get 32 MPG. And probably cost $30,000 instead of $20,000.

RE: Cool, but...
By knutjb on 10/9/2012 11:40:13 PM , Rating: 1
Ford says:
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 .
Did you read the article?

The cost of mass producing these parts should bring the price down. The differences between steel and aluminum in structural members is very close. So until they start mass producing full composite body structures weight will still be a problem. The irony is that more oil will be required to manufacture these vehicles.

We will get all composite cars and then they will complain that the car can catch fire and we have to regulate the pollution from that and prevent it from ever burning in the first place. Nothing will ever make "they" happy. After all they are committed to a life of misery and demand that you share in their righteous misery. No, I am not against technological advancement. I don't believe in forced, political advancement of technology.

Obama has unilaterally forced a paradigm shift, smaller cars and few if any trucks, that will cost the consumer substantially for a product they might not want in the end. People like having roomy cars for a number of reasons and there is nothing wrong with that.

RE: Cool, but...
By Samus on 10/10/2012 4:23:46 AM , Rating: 2
VIS makes very high quality carbon fiber hoods in OEM styles for hundreds of cars for ~$700. A hood for a 2004 Focus costs $610, 2007 Fusion is $740, and a 2012 Cruze for $700.

Seibon makes decent quality carbon fiber hoods in OEM styles for hundreds of cars for ~$400. Older cars like a 99-05 Jetta MK4 are $300 while a Pontiac G6 is $500.

I use both brands on my vehicles (every car and truck I own has a carbon fiber hood, some painted, some not) and the quality is excellent for both. The VIS hoods have thicker UV clearcoat and copy the OEM cowl contour better (perfectly, actually) but the Seibon hoods are great for daily drivers. I even have a set of carbon fiber fenders as well to protect my turbos, dual stage intake actuators, air intake tubes and other things inside/near the fenders (one of my custom pipes cost 5x as much as the fenders so its worth protecting.)

They can be professionally painted to match your OEM color for under $200 just about anywhere unless you have an exotic paint color. Installation of any hood is incredibly easy, usually four bolts. Getting the old hood off is the hardest part because its heavy. Once its off, you pop in some new windshield washer nozzles ($10-$15 bucks a pair at a dealer) and bolt it on which isn't hard when it weighs <10lbs.

Anyway, my point is carbon fiber isn't expensive, its substantially cheaper than people think it is. It has the potential to be cheaper than aluminum because its very, VERY easy to manufacture and work with. It's simply the difference of a stamping + lipping/sealing or a molding press + epoxy.

Manufacture adoption of carbon fiber body parts will obviously bring the costs down significantly as well. Many structural body parts will be carbon in 10 years.

RE: Cool, but...
By jRaskell on 10/10/2012 11:57:17 AM , Rating: 2
Who said anything about Options. CAFE standards require the cars actually be sold to influence a manufacturers ratings. These fuel efficiency changes won't be optional equipment. They'll all be standard and the base price of all vehicles will steadily increase as a result. The consumer isn't going to be given an option in this respect.

RE: Cool, but...
By Samus on 10/10/2012 4:03:36 AM , Rating: 3
Listen, you have four options for a hood. Let's focus on the Ford Focus.

Aftermarket - some of these are so poorly engineered they can kill you in an accident. They lack engineered crumple zones and could be too strong, snapping the hood hinges, sliding right through the windshield decapitating you. Many cases of this on many vehicles over the years. These hoods are generally very heavy and often don't seal the cowl and latch properly. This hood costs $100-$130.

Aftermarket fiberglass - no crumple zones, pretty weak, will split easily and offer no protection to you or your frame. However, fairly light and easy to paint/modify. Also very inexpensive. $150-$250.

OEM or OEM-approved - has proper crumple zones and will be heavier than aftermarket, but matches the original hood you had quite well. This hood costs $250-$350.

Aftermarket Carbon Fiber - no crumple zones, but not neccessary. These hoods are incredibly safe for pedestrian impact as well as object impact. Their ability to deform/conform/reform gives them buoyancy at the expense of shattering the epoxy that holds the initial shape. The hood will return to its original shape after impact, but the structural integrity will be sacrificed requiring re-epoxy ($300-$400) and obvious repainting if you want it painted. These hoods are superior to all hood options in every way: heat disipation, noise insulation, impact absorbtion, safety, feathery weight (mine weighs 6lbs) and the carbon weave looks beautiful and natural on a black vehicle, while looking sporty on a white vehicle. $400-$800 in varying qualities and styles.

Lastly , nobody "repairs" hoods anymore... if any repair requires repainting, they are sent on a slowboat to China. It isn't cost effective to even bend a dented hood back if it is going to need to be painted anyway. The prep work to 'refurb' an old hood outweighs the cost of a new hood that comes primed and easily painted for a few hundred bucks.

Every vehicle should have a carbon fiber hood. I've crashed a lot autocrossing and rallyecrossing; the hood almost always saves the subframe legs and engine cradle. I impacted concrete barrier at 50mph and the exhaust manifold wasn't even impacted, and even that hood was repaired for $200 in re-epoxy and clearcoat.

A carbon fiber hood on every vehicle would reduce overall collision repair costs astronomically. Obviously there will be lots of damage in a frontal collision forward of the bonnet, but bumpers, grills and radiators are cheap, the stuff behind them is not, especially the human bodies.

RE: Cool, but...
By 91TTZ on 10/10/12, Rating: 0
RE: Cool, but...
By Samus on 10/10/2012 12:44:24 PM , Rating: 2
An automotive engineer that races cars just cant exist in your universe I guess...

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