Ford will add lots of carbon fiber to new vehicles

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips
With BMW receiving a bunch of positive press for its usage of carbon fiber to build its i3 and i8 plug-in vehicles, Ford is jumping into that game as well. The US automaker has reached a manufacturing agreement with Dow Chemical to speed up the use of that material in Blue Oval vehicles. Carbon fiber usage will cut weight from Ford's new products, boosting fuel efficiency as a result.

Ford will work with DowAksa, a 50/50 joint venture between Dow Chemical and Turkey-based Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş, on a manufacturing partnership. The goal is to speed up technology research to make it cheaper to make cars and trucks with carbon fiber materials.

Ford's light-weighting efforts received a boost of sorts this week when its aluminum-body 2015 F-150 was awarded a five-star Overall Vehicle Score in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's testing, making this year's version the safest to date. The new body construction cut 700 pounds from the truck's curb weight. Take a look at Ford's press release about DowAksa below.
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Ford and DowAksa formalize agreement to advance the adoption of cost-effective carbon fiber components through technology validation and proof of concept to reduce vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency without sacrificing strength

Agreement provides pathway for a high-volume manufacturing partnership

New joint development agreement accelerates joint research announced in January in partnership under new U.S. composites manufacturing institute

Ford and DowAksa today signed a joint development agreement (JDA) to formally advance research on cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing of automotive-grade carbon fiber, a material poised to play a significant role in the drive to make vehicles lighter for greater fuel efficiency, performance and capability.

The agreement, between Ford Motor Company, Ford Global Technologies and DowAksa –

a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş – will combine DowAksa's feedstock capacity, carbon fiber conversion and downstream intermediates production capabilities with Ford's expertise in design, engineering and high-volume manufacturing. The goal is to produce materials that make cost-effective carbon fiber composite parts that are much lighter than steel but meet automotive strength requirements.

"This joint development agreement reinforces Ford's commitment to our partnership with DowAksa, and our drive to bring carbon fiber components to the broader market," said Mike Whitens, director, Vehicle Enterprise Sciences, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering. "The goal of our work here fits within the company's Blueprint for Sustainability, where future Ford vehicles will be lighter with optimized performance that would help consumers further improve fuel economy and reduce emissions."

"Today's agreement marks another milestone in the partnership to develop lightweighting solutions for the automotive industry," said DowAksa Chairman Heinz Haller. "Ford and DowAksa's collaboration will accelerate delivery of advanced materials and technologies to meet and exceed expectations for high performance and fuel economy."

"Automotive manufacturers' use of carbon fiber composites has been hindered by the absence of both high-volume manufacturing methods and affordable material formats," said DowAska Vice Chairman Mehmet Ali Berkman. "This partnership combines the individual strengths of each company to target these challenges."

The JDA allows the companies to collaboratively generate new, lower-cost automotive grades of carbon fiber that can be applied to aligned and random fiber formats while maintaining compatibility with both thermoset and thermoplastic matrices. The agreement also includes a pathway for potential extension of development collaboration into a commercial manufacturing partnership.

"DowAksa is committed to bringing the benefits of carbon fiber to the industrial marketplace," Berkman added. "By entering into this agreement, DowAksa is taking a serious approach to providing environmentally sustainable solutions, the goal being the manufacture of much lighter vehicles with optimized performance and cost, which will ensure reduced fuel consumption and exhaust emissions."

As announced in January, the companies will be part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced by President Obama as part of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The JDA will facilitate the companies' efforts in conjunction with IACMI to overcome the high cost and limited availability of carbon fiber in automotive applications.
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