Ford Motor Company today demonstrated a prototype carbon fibre bonnet that could help lower fuel consumption.
The carbon fibre reinforced plastic Ford Focus bonnet displayed at the Composites Europe event in Dusseldorf, Germany is constructed from the super-strong material usually associated with bespoke racing vehicles or high-performance sports cars.
The prototype weighs more than 50 percent less than a standard steel version. As a result of progress made during an on-going research project involving engineers from the Ford European Research Centre, production time for an individual carbon fibre bonnet is fast enough to be employed on a production line – a significant step towards increased usage of lightweight materials in Ford vehicles.
Inga Wehmeyer, advanced materials and processes research engineer, Ford European Research Centre said;
It’s no secret that reducing a vehicle’s weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption, but a process for fast and affordable production of carbon fibre automotive parts in large numbers has never been available, by partnering with materials experts through the Hightech.NRW research project, Ford is working to develop a solution that supports cost efficient manufacturing of carbon fibre components.”
The involvement of Ford European Research Centre in the Hightech.NRW research project follows Ford’s partnership with Dow Automotive Systems; a collaboration announced earlier this year that will investigate new materials, design processes and manufacturing techniques.
Dow Automotive Systems and Ford will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fibre, as well as high-volume manufacturing methods: both critical to increasing the range of future Ford battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Carbon fibre offers a very high strength-to-weight ratio. It is up to five times as strong as steel, twice as stiff, and one-third the weight. Advanced materials such as carbon fibre are key to Ford’s plans to reduce the weight of its cars by up to 340kg by the end of the decade.
Ford has partnered with specialists from the Institute of Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Henkel, Evonik, IKV (Institute of Plastics Processing), Composite Impulse and Toho Tenax for the course of the Hightech.NRW research project.
Funded by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the project began in 2010 and, despite being set to continue until September 2013, has already made significant progress towards some if its targets.
The refined gap-impregnation process works by introducing resin to pre-formed carbon fibre textile material in a fast, stable and adaptable manner. Initial testing suggests that CFRP components such as the prototype Ford Focus bonnet will meet the high standards for stiffness, dent resistance and crash performance. The component has also performed well in pedestrian protection head-impact tests, thanks to its innovative construction of a special foam core sandwiched between two layers of CFRP.