If you were looking at carbon fiber as the magical lightweight solution to the parallel automotive woes of low power-to-weight ratios and high fuel consumption, we have some potentially disappointing news for you. Two of the world's largest suppliers of carbon fiber have announced that they are raising their prices. And not by a little, either, with the going rate for the high-tech material rising by 10 to 30 percent in one shot.
The simultaneous announcement from Toray Industries Inc. (the #1 supplier of carbon fiber) and Mitsubishi Rayon Co. (the third largest) marks the first time both companies have universally raised their prices at the same time. The development would border on price-fixing if not for the fact that the second biggest carbon fiber manufacturer, Teijin Ltd., didn't participate. However Teijin is expected to announce its own price hike sometime this week, as well.
We all expected prices to drop as use of the exotic material became more commonplace in automotive, aerospace and commercial applications. However the rising costs of raw materials have contributed to the higher price. They're at Y4,000 (~$37) per ton now and are expect to go up by between Y400 and Y1,200 per ton. Because of the high demand for carbon fiber, the price increase is expected to take immediate effect. As for the impact on he automotive industry, it could mean price increases for cars using the material, while the development of new cars is likely to forgo employing carbon fiber in their construction for other materials like aluminum and plastic. Hopefully Honda and Nissan finish developing their mass-market carbon fiber sooner rather than later.