Driven by a faster-than-expected pace of technology development, carbon-fibre reinforced plastics (CFRPs) will be poised to gain widespread adoption for automotive light-weighting by 2025, according to Lux Research.
Already advances underway in fibre, resin and composite part production will lead to a $6 billion market for automotive CFRPs in 2020, more than double Lux’s earlier projection. Even this figure is dwarfed by the full potential for CFRPs in automotive if they can become affordable enough for use in mainstream vehicles.
Current trends strongly indicate significant mainstream adoption of carbon fibre reinforced plastics in the mid 2020’s and companies throughout the value chain must position themselves to take advantage of the coming shifts. However, long-term mega trends towards urbanisation, connectivity and automation suggest that there could be a limited time window beyond that for penetrating the automotive space.
Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report said;
CFRP developers will have to continue the pace of innovation to overcome the high cost that has so far limited the material to less price-sensitive markets like aerospace and sporting goods.
Among the research company’s findings showed that the number of direct partnerships between carmakers or Tier–1 automotive suppliers and carbon fibre players has nearly doubled to 11 since 2012. Toray, with partnerships with Plasan Carbon Composites and Magna, has formed the most new relationships and is a major hub. Other manufacturing costs also need to be cut. Carbon fibre itself, at $28/kg for standard modulus fibre, represents just 22% of the cost of a final CFRP part. Additional advances are needed to reduce capital, labor, energy, resin and processing costs, which together make up the remaining 78%.
Using a predictive tool, Lux Research identified a lag of about 18 years between uptick of patent activity and attainment of mainstream commercial adoption milestones. With another major upturn in CFRP patent activity occurring in 2007, large-scale mainstream automotive use is likely by the mid–2020s.
The report, titled “Scaling Up Carbon Fiber: Roadmap to Automotive Adoption,” is part of the Lux Research Advanced Materials Intelligence service.