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.
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[Source: Dow Jones]