• Sep 19, 2010
There's been plenty of talk about carmakers moving to lighter materials like carbon fiber to reduce weight, improve fuel economy and enhance the driving experience. Two years ago, Honda and Nissan formed a consortium to research the mass-market implementation of carbon fiber. Last year, BMW launched its own joint venture to do the same. Lamborghini joined the party when it opened its own CF research center earlier this year. In practice, though, use of composites for large panels is still limited to spendier offerings like the BMW M3, Audi R8 V10 Spyder and the exotic classes.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally gives a reason for that. "We cannot make a business case for composites in the auto industry," he says, citing the work left to be done on producing better steel and alloys. Mulally adds that getting enough composites to meet a volume maker's needs and the sheer cost of production nixes the prospect for now. Instead, thermosetting plastics – different than thermoplastics – are a solution more near-at-hand.

Photo Copyright ©2010 Alex Núñez /AOL

[Source: Dow Jones]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 58 Comments
      bozonono
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ford is still a winner since they didn,t use the bailout.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Carl Mosbaugh 6:41PM (9/21/2010)....They used composites for the hood on the GT500KR. This was the special edition "King of the Road" version, not the standard GT500.

      http://jalopnik.com/5357470/replacement-carbon+fiber-hood-for-shelby-gt500kr-20k

      "...One customer found when he hit an animal with his GT500KR how pricey it's snout is: hood $18,400; hood pins $632; front spoiler $3392..." They since lowered the hood price to $9700. Such a bargain.

      Granted this was a low volume application, but it gives a hint at the cost issues associated with introducing CF composites into mass production. Even if this is 100 times what a mass produced hood would cost, it's still more money than what Ford pays for a steel hood.

      It's amusing when Dan F. bloviates about his high IQ and yet can't understand an economic argument. He would make an excellent addition to Obama's economic team. Or maybe he can go for the Car Czar position. After all, GM is making so much money now that a measly $20k for a hood for a Chevy Volt is no big deal, right. Then it will only cost $61k. Maybe in his new Czar position he can get the regime to pass a larger tax credit for electric cars. I think $40k apiece should do it....
      carl mosbaugh
      • 4 Years Ago
      MESSAGE FOR FORDS POSITION ON CARBON FIBRE AND COMPOSITES....I THINK FORD SHOULD CONSIDER SOME COMPOSITES/CARBON FIBRE ON THERE PERFORMANCE CARS AND OR TRUCKS.
      THE PROCESS USED IN THE CORVETTE FACTORY ON BOWLING GREEN KY...WOULD BE A GOOD APPRICATION FOR SAY THE HIGH END MUSTANGS...THE NEW 2012 BOSS MUSTANG,THE CARS THAT FORD SENDS TO ROUSH PERFORMANCE AND SHELBY WOULD BE GREAT APPRICATIONS....PLUS DONT FORGET THE F-150 TRUCKS AND THE APPLICATION OF AN ALUMINIM FRAME LIKE THE CORVETTES.
      PLUS THEIR ARE OTHER VERY STRONG COMPOSITES USED IN THE MARINE INDUSTRY THAT ARE NOT A PRICY AS CARBON FIBRE......E-GLASS AND S-GLASS..

      SINCERELY.

      CARL MOSBAUGH/BRADENTON FLORIDA.

        carl mosbaugh
        • 4 Years Ago
        @carl mosbaugh
        SOME ADDITIONS COMMENTS AND OR SUGGESTIONS

        WEIGHT REDUCTIONS:
        ALUMINUM ONE PIECE DRIVE SHAFTS
        COMPOSITE FLOORS AND TRUCKS
        LOWER AND UPPER CONTROL ARMS MADE FROM ALUMINUM

        I AM NOT AN AUTO ENGINEER ..BUT THESE JUST REALLY MAKE SENSE TO ME.
        carl mosbaugh
        • 4 Years Ago
        @carl mosbaugh
        WHAT DID THEY USE THE COMPOSITES ON IN 2008 500GT
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice clothes.
      Derek
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm no CF expert by any means, but I'd imagine repairs to dings/dents/cracks would range from difficult to impossible, requiring in most cases a total replacement of the item.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Interesting to hear that not everyone is jumping on the CF bandwagon. It's cool stuff but has it's downsides too. Aside from the price, which may come down, it's not recyclable like steel/aluminum/alloys. Not a big deal for small production cars, but wouldn't be good for mass produced cars with a shelf life of 10-20 years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Unfortunately Clavius Mike F is right you can't recycle CF all you can do is incinerate it to dispose of it. I remember first reading about this when I read about Beechcraft's (aircraft company) desicion to scrap all of the Model 2000 Starship's they built as they felt it wasn't cost effective to support them since they built so few. When they dismantled them very little of the planes could be salvaged. The planes were made almost entirely from carbon fiber and the only thing they found they could do was shred and incinerate them, that was only 7 years ago and I've yet to read about any advances in recycling the material.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hmm interesting I thought it would be as in heat it up to a point of liquefying the bonding agent and then seperate. If this does hold true then I see another reason was as to Ford most likely said no to trying to invest into CF. If there is a way to reuse the CF then I think Ford should go for it atleast in a limited production scheme of top tier cars like their Shelby's and maybe their SHO's be it roof's or trunks/hoods.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Being abundant has nothing to do with it., fossil fuels are mostly made out of carbon! How the carbon is bonded (chemically) is important, and that is easier said then done. Hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth, but we still don't have a viable hydrogen power systems yet.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thermosetting plastics, which Mulally mentions as a more viable alternative, aren't recyclable either:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermosetting_polymer

        I'm just a layman, but I would assume that since carbon is an extremely abundant element, while fossil fuels are diminishing rapidly, it would make more sense to pour research money into carbon fiber, being a more sustainable solution.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My guess is, OEMs are staying away from CF due to three things:
        1. Cost of manufacturing
        2. They are not repairable (accident damage etc.)
        3. They are not recyclable

        Also, remember that "composites" are more than CF.
      • 4 Years Ago
      They want to stick w/ steel and alloy because they're in bed with them! (Union BS).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Manufacturing carbon fiber is a really dirty process and the best resins are banned from most western countries b/c of toxicity. There are mountains of regulations, which adds huge cost, in making the stuff in the US. And unlike steel/aluminum, pre-preg carbon fiber has a shelf life...a very short one at that...and cannot be recycled/reused.

      China, on the other hand, does not have these regulatory hurdles and will be a destination for even more CF manufacturing to go along with their massive textile industry.

      Sure, it's lighter, but it will most certainly ship jobs/factories to China for any profitability.

      The best idea I've heard/read/seen regarding new skin for automobiles while drastically reducing weight would be BMW's "GINA". Bangle is a genius...
        • 4 Years Ago
        too bad he couldn't draw cars
      • 4 Years Ago
      I guess its a no brainier, have you seen how the factories stamp body panels and frames? CF composites might work for low production vehicles but can never work for mass produced cars where they are stamping every few seconds to keep up...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dear Autoblog,

      Please remove the share pop up bar at the bottom of the page. I will be on Jalopnik until its gone.

      Thanks,
      Bob
        • 4 Years Ago
        I understand that the bar is an attempt to spread the site around the web in order to get more views, but this is pretty irritating. If it was half the size and nested in the bottom right corner it would be much more acceptable, but I rather see the share links on the page before or after the article instead.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'll know how to copy and paste if I want to share....seriously! Bar be gone!
        • 4 Years Ago
        They didn't listen, I still get the bar.
        • 4 Years Ago
        instead of giving readers _at least decent_ commenting system you're adding useless annoying crap O.o
        • 4 Years Ago
        PLEASE remove the share bar. It is very irritating.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Count me in too - I freaking hate that share bar at the top. I'm going to follow suit and move to Jalopnik as well until you take care of this.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dear autoblog,

        Could something be done about the ad that appears at the top when browsing on an iPhone. It appears after a few seconds and moves everything one step down so you always hit the wrong news item.

        But I'm not fussy, I love the site anyway.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Seems they listened....

        I'd be better if you took it off completely, cause

        1. I'm not going to click it.
        2. It makes me want to spend more time on Jalopnik.

        Now just change the commenting system. kay...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Also, Autoblog, replies to comments are not always showing up in the correct place. So a quick "to do" list for this week (tomorrow):

        1) Remove share bars
        2) Fix commenting system
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh one more thing for ya..

        When you post a comment on page one, the resulting page is the last page of posts. It would be nice to see the same page you posted from refresh in the screen.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hey John,

        Nice to hear from you! While you're all fixing things. I noticed that when I click the image and go to view pictures in the gallery that lots of times my browser can't get back to the post if I click the back button. I'm using Firefox 3.x.....

        That's been 'bugging' me for a year or so. Hope you find this useful info...

        • 4 Years Ago
        I was going to comment on using the Corvette as a model of a cost effective use of lightweight body materials. Even the floor is a sandwich of composites and balsa for example, and the body is variable thickness which makes it so light on the rear bumper that the paint weight is equal to the panel weight (which Clarkson mocks as "flimsy" since its flexible... actually a technological breakthrough from old school heavy fiberglass composites).

        I forget what else I was going to mention, as that bar is just plain annoying.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hey all,

        Definitely hearing you loud and clear. The share bar is just a test that AOL is running on Autoblog and will be gone by mid-day Monday at the latest. I've sent all of your feedback to the team responsible. Hopefully they have they're answer. Thanks!

        John Neff
        Editor-in-Chief
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dear Autoblog,

        Thank you for removing the share bar from the bottom of the page.

        Now please remove it from the top of the page as well.

        Thank you
      • 4 Years Ago
      Seems like a pretty good idea from Mulally. From what I've been reading, the demand for carbon fiber is pretty high so the prices have gone up.

      I'm all for lightening the cars, but I don't want to be paying too much for it. Ford has always been about making cars for the people after all.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dear Autoblog, please remove it for me too.
    • Load More Comments