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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 Samus on 10/10/2012 7:08:06 PM , Rating: 2
Are you kidding me? Carbon fiber body panels have been available on the 999s, CBRs and GSXRs for decades. I saw a CBR at the Honda dealer on the showroom floor last spring pre-equiped with a Carbon package for $2000+ including a full carbon helmet.

Carbon frames are another story. Body panels? Pfft, slightly more expensive than plastic. Obviously on a motorcycle its mostly for show; weight savings over plastic is immeasurable and the improved safety is not applicable.

My mountain bike is mostly carbon fiber and the weight savings over aluminum are also non-existant. Some things like aluminum handlebars and stems are actually lighter than carbon fiber, but for biking applications carbon is stronger and absorbs harsh jumps and impacts better. The transfer of energy through a carbon fork > carbon stem > carbon bars is definately reduced opposed to steel, titanium or aluminum.

All I'm saying is I think the focus on carbon fiber shouldn't be the cost (because in many cases increased price is negligible at best when all factors are considered.)


RE: Cool, but...
By Motoman on 10/10/2012 7:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
Big difference between "available" and OEM equipment.

Yeah, you can buy carbon fiber bodywork for essentially any sportbike on the market.

But it didn't come that was as OEM equipment.

I think the focus, in this case, should be on cost. For stuff like body panels for sure, since the difference in weight between carbon fiber and any of the myrad of plastic/composite materials is negligible - but the price difference would be horrendous.

...and on the note about price...I'm not exactly sure how you decide that a $2,000 carbon package is a "pfft slightly more expensive" issue. Two grand over the base price of the bike is "slightly" more expensive? Right. Kinda like how concrete is slightly harder than jello.


RE: Cool, but...
By Samus on 10/15/2012 5:08:53 AM , Rating: 2
When you have a $30,000 Aprilia or Ducatti, a $2,000 cosmetic upgrade is neither here or there. I know people who've spent that having their wheels acid dipped and powder coated. What's the difference?

But the point stands, carbon fiber on a bike (unless the FRAME is made out of it) really doesn't make sense.

On a car, it is multi-dimensionable since it adds safety, rigidity/reduced colision damage, and is substantially lighter than just about any alternative. On a bike, you get none of that.

And personally, I ride a classic blacked out cruiser and think carbon fiber on a motorcycle looks ridiculous simple because of the form over function application.


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