Ford is getting religion when it comes to light-weighting its vehicles. The company has entered into a new partnership with Dow Chemical to develop carbon fiber that can be manufactured at affordable prices for high-volume applications. That, of course, is the holy grail of weight reduction, which is why other manufacturers like General Motors are also partnering with suppliers to try and achieve the same ends.

Now before you get too excited about the carbon-fiber Mustang in the photos, understand that it was just a limited-production car shown at SEMA in 2009, and it carried a price tag of $135,000. That's the problem with carbon fiber parts – they are expensive because they are much more difficult to manufacture in volume than steel.

But if Ford and other carmakers are going to achieve the sorts of fuel economy improvements required by new regulations, they're going to have to either scale carbon fiber or dramatically shrink the size of most vehicles. Ford says it's targeting a 750-pound weight reduction per vehicle by the end of the decade.

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Ford and Dow Team Up to Bring Low-Cost, High-Volume Carbon Fiber Composites to Next-Generation Vehicles
  • Weight reductions of up to 750 pounds on future Ford vehicles are key to meeting fuel economy and electric vehicle range targets
  • Ford and Dow engineers and researchers will combine efforts to develop low-cost carbon fiber and component-level manufacturing processes

DEARBORN, Mich., April 12, 2012 – Cutting the weight of new cars and trucks by up to 750 pounds by the end of the decade is a key component of Ford's strategy to improve fuel efficiency. In order to help achieve that goal, Ford Motor Company is partnering with Dow Automotive Systems, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, to research the use of advanced carbon fiber composites in high-volume vehicles.

"There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles: improving the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reducing the amount of work that powertrains need to do," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president, Research and Innovation. "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."

Ford is investigating a range of new materials, enhanced design processes and new manufacturing techniques that would enable automotive structures to meet increasingly stringent safety and quality standards while cutting weight.

"Vehicle weight reduction for our customers through intelligent design with a materials focus has been a priority for Dow Automotive Systems," said Florian Schattenmann, director of Research and Development for Dow Automotive Systems. "This partnership with Ford on carbon fiber composites is a logical next step to progress already achieved through the use of lightweight, high-strength polymers and structural bonding technology."

Carbon fiber composites have been used in aerospace and racing cars for decades due to their unique combination of high strength and low mass. Until recently these materials have been far too costly for use in high-volume mainstream applications.

Dow Automotive Systems and Ford have signed a joint development agreement that will see researchers from the two companies collaborate on several fronts. The development teams will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fiber and develop component manufacturing methods for high-volume automotive applications.

The partnership will seek to combine the best of Ford's capabilities and experience in design, engineering and high-volume vehicle production with Dow Automotive's strengths in R&D, materials science and high-volume polymer processing.

"Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle," added Mascarenas. "However, it's particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles."

The joint development effort will also leverage work that The Dow Chemical Company has already begun through partnerships with Turkish carbon fiber manufacturer AKSA and the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

If the joint development effort is successful, carbon fiber components may begin appearing on new Ford vehicles in the latter part of this decade as product development teams work toward meeting new fuel efficiency standards of more than 50 mpg and extending the range of plug-in vehicles.


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  • 56 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
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      Alex Butti
      • 2 Years Ago
      Never mind. After seen the pictures it is indeed Vaugh Gittin's Mustang. The biggest problem nobody seems to be concern it RECYCLING. I personally deal with carbon fiber daily. Recycling carbon fiber is by no means easy and it's VERY laborious and extremely expensive. On a typical wet carbon fiber panel is very hard to separate the resin/ hardening from the actual carbon cloth (sheet). These days only race cars and exotics use this polymer, so the % of usage is relatively low (I'm talking strictly about cars, not NASA or Boeing). If carbon fiber will see mass production-usage on regular cars, be ready to see the Government looking for answers on how to recycle the cloth. I'm sure someone will find a cheaper solution to recycling, but as of today, recycling carbon fiber is extremely expensive and laborious.
        Jonathan Arena
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Alex Butti
        Great comment. I never thought of that, but its a big deal: As it is now, Automobiles are the most recycled consumer product on the planet. But as an optimist let me just express how F-ING AWESOME it would be to see automobiles lose an average of 750 lbs accross the board! Fuel economy, tires, CRASH SAFETY, Performance-- Everything gets better!!
          Alex Butti
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jonathan Arena
          Thanks Jonathan. Yes everything will get better. Brakes will last much longer, tires will see less stress, cars will be more nimble, more fuel efficient, and stronger (as carbon wet and dry) is stiffer and up to 8 times stronger than regular steel. I'm surprised the government hasn't spoken up yet about companies like BMW, which use carbon roof, or Ferrari and Lamborghini. Those sports cars are not mass produced and maybe the Government hasn't looked into yet, but as carbon will become more readily available on the market, someone is gonna try to stop the production (those greens :))))...... We'll see.
      _I_I_II_I_I_
      • 2 Years Ago
      mass reduction is the future
      Dennis Baskov
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Mustang will be a real monster with the 750 weight reduction. The biggest concern is how well they can accomplish keeping the price down.
      Will
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is great news. It's about time CF technology was brought down to the masses.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      NissanGTR
      • 2 Years Ago
      Read the title fools. It is up to 750lbs. The mustang isnt going to lose 750lbs just by swapping out all of the panels. 1. The exterior metal probably weighs around 500-700lbs 2. Carbon fiber is light, but its not paper light. The SUV is whats getting the 750lbs weight loss.
        guyverfanboy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NissanGTR
        Exactly! Trucks and SUV need to loose this sort of weight! Hopefully up 1,000 lbs too.
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where can I sign up for a 3000lb DOHC 6.2L Mustang? I would take that over a GT500 any day of the week.
      Dark Gnat
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sensors, safety equipment, infotainment systems, additional controls/features most of which require wiring have all added to the weight of cars. Plus cars in general have become steadily larger.
      Spartan
      • 2 Years Ago
      With the average transaction price of a car over $30k now, I can only imagine what this will do to that average. It's a good idea and will likely help with fuel economy, but they have to figure out a way to keep the costs down.
      Daniel Velarde
      • 2 Years Ago
      the pictures don't don't do the RTR-C justice. An absolute cherry car. That's my car to the right :)
        Arturo Rios Jr.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Daniel Velarde
        I remember you getting this car from ford. how is it holding up? I saw it on tv.
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      Weight reduction of all cars is going to be the best thing to happen in the auto industry. Can you imagine a mustang going from 3700 pounds down to 3000 and still retaining the safety and tech features. 3000 is what the old mustangs in the 90's used to weigh.
        graphikzking
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        yep and doubling the hp at the same time while increasing gas mileage by about 50%. And they said it couldn't be done. Hell they could go back down to 320hp with the 3000lbs and I'd be happy. Don't really NEED 400+ hp in a 3000lb car - it's great to have but not nearly as needed when you drop that much weight.
          AcidTonic
          • 2 Years Ago
          @graphikzking
          Right. Same reason I got into rally cars. You can make the same V8 power yet have an engine light enough to bring along four wheel drive while still remaining pretty light. My only complaint is that Americans could only talk crap about small boost engines and weight reduction a few years prior. Now that it's them doing it, now it's trendy and socially acceptable.
          XJ Yamaha
          • 2 Years Ago
          @graphikzking
          @ AcidTonic. Kid I know bought a Subaru WRX STI. Thing is a beast, throws you back in the seat and plows through the snow like it's nothing with the AWD, but dang, that little turbo 4 doesn't do all that well for mileage.
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