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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 jeffkro on 10/9/2012 6:55:28 PM , Rating: 2
Ford has been building aluminum hoods for a few years, why don't they use that for the comparison? Making the whole chassis out of aluminum works great and isn't a whole lot different then making it out of steel. I don't know why the industry doesn't make more to aluminum.

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/9/2012 8:16:32 PM , Rating: 2
I do.

For one, it's a lot more expensive than steel. And it's more expensive to work with. Ask a welder what he'd rather work with, aluminum or steel.

Aluminum also is way more prone to stress fractures than steel. People with aluminum-frame trailers that I know are frequently having to get cracks in their frame rails welded back up.

Aluminum is not a magic bullet. It solves a lot of problems better than steel in a lot of ways...but it also introduces it's own problems.

RE: Cool, but...
By jeffkro on 10/9/2012 10:00:40 PM , Rating: 2
Cost goes down once the industry moves over, and I haven't heard of any problems with the aluminum cars out on the road, such as the corvette and Rx7.

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/10/2012 11:38:43 AM , Rating: 2
Ask a metallurgist. Aluminum has markedly different properties than steel, and stress fracturing is one of them.

RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/10/2012 11:40:21 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, and the cost of aluminum isn't going to go down if more people start using it - the cost would go up. More demand for the same product. Aluminum costs more to produce at every step of the way, and there's less of it available too.

Especially if you want the really high-grade stuff, like 7075.

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