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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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So much hate for the CF!
By yottabit on 10/10/2012 8:34:02 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's great Ford is starting to look into this with other cars

Carbon fiber is something that can have a pretty good economy of scale, we normally think of it as very expensive because most of the time it's used in selective, low-volume applications. Aluminum is pretty expensive material, so if the costs at high volume were relatively close I can understand Ford going for the much higher strength:weight ratio of composites

I don't understand why everyone is hating. Ford is using more and more aluminum in their designs now, but there was a point years ago where they had to start testing and validating it. Now they are beginning the same process with carbon fiber, which is great.

It wouldn't be the first time carbon fiber makes it way down from a non-exotic. GM has been using CF in the Corvette bumpers for a while now for instance.

It will be interesting to see how insurance treats cars as they become more and more composite related. To be clear there are some cars out there with a complete carbon fiber monocoque. These typically need to be sent back to the factory after a collision to determine if there has been any damage. Unless it becomes mainstream and your average frame repair shop gets an X-ray and ultrasound to check for minute cracks, the future could be interesting. However there are plenty of parts that aren't quite so mission critical that could be replaced (like the hood!)




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