Carbon cars for the masses
F1 cars have been using carbon for decades, but can it reach the masses? The use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (C-FRP) in vehicles has always been conditioned by its elevated cost; not only for the material itself, but also for the production technologies required to create a finished shaped part. However, as prices go down, and production technologies evolve, would it be possible to make a business case for carbon ending up in your next generation Astra, Golf, Megane or Punto?
Setting the ground for a competitive advantage
One of the European automotive wanted to know just this, but had to admit that the internal R&D staff lacked the knowledge, the methodology and the time to find out. They had been involved in a major EU funded research program that covered some technologies, and allowed for some interesting conclusions, but wanted to acquire a global perspective. Thus B&W was hired to execute a global state of the art benchmark of mature, growing and embryonic technologies. We made scenarios for cost reductions over time, combined with sensitivity analysis, and defined the key influences on price. Several key players were interviewed to obtain not-yet-published insights into what might be possible in a time frame of 8-12 years. Finally we outlined priority research lines to allow the client to maximize its competitive advantage regarding the use of C-FRP in mass produced cars. Based on our study, the OEM decided to increase its research capacities related to C-FRP, and to engage in targeted partnering with some selected suppliers. We then became involved in helping them to develop a new, broader scope publicly co-funded R&D program in collaboration with other OEMs and T1, T2, T3 suppliers.
Will the next generation compact car include C-FRP parts? With the current market for carbon fibre being dictated by aircraft manufacturers demand, we doubt it. However, some interesting technologies are in the pipeline, and could hit the market in a decade or two….