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Toray, Nissan, Honda Partner on Carbon Fiber for Cars

26 July 2008

The Nikkei reported that Toray Industries Inc., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. will work together to develop a new carbon fiber material for use in auto bodies, with the goal of developing mass-market carbon fiber cars.

The group aims to establish mass production technology for the new material by the mid-2010s. By replacing most of the steel used in cars, they hope to develop vehicles up to 40% lighter than their steel counterparts.

Carbon fiber boasts one-quarter the weight of iron, but is 10 times as strong. High prices have been a major obstacle to the widespread use of carbon fiber in cars: 1 kg of carbon fiber costs several thousand yen, compared with slightly more than 100 yen for steel and 300-400 yen for aluminum. As steel prices will likely continue rising, in part because of increasing market dominance by the three top iron ore mining companies, the price gap between steel and carbon fiber is expected to narrow over time. Unlike steel, carbon fiber has significant room for increases in production.

Steel accounts for about three-quarters of the average car weight in Japan of around 1,350 kg (2,976 lbs). Using carbon fiber to replace steel in key parts could cut vehicle weight by up to 40%, to slightly above an average 800 kg (1,800 lbs). This could improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide by approximately 30% per car.

Today, steel accounts for three-quarters of the average car weight of around 1,350 kg. By replacing most of the steel used in key parts with carbon fiber, the weight can be reduced by up to 40% to slightly above 800 kg (1,800 lbs). This is expected to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30%, or 0.7 ton, per car a year.

Textile firms Mitsubishi Rayon Co. and Toyobo Co., plastic parts maker Takagi Seiko Corp., and researchers from the University of Tokyo will also participate in the joint effort. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is providing ¥2 billion (US$18.5 million) in funding for the project over 5 years.

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Ouch ... I just finished reading about GM's $400M powertrain development centre.

Might have been better spending the money on a battery plant or carbon fibre development.

Sorry GM but I think these Japanese are making you look like nodding donkeys.

Perhaps carbon fiber construction will scale with time. My current bike is made of it, and it was quite expensive, but not outrageously so.

However, that is for about 2KG of material. If you wanted 100KG of it, you would be looking at a lot more. Unless they work out how to scale the process in a big way - which could happen.

I wonder that the limitations are ?

To reduce the cost of carbon material will benefit many industries beyond the car industry. Most notable the construction of wind turbines will benefit. After the aviation industry I think the wind power industry could be the second largest consumer of carbon fiber. Often the blades are made by a combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass and even wood. The tendency is that as the cost of carbon fiber goes down they use more of it at the expense of fiberglass and wood. Shipbuilding should also be able to benefit from more use of carbon fiber.

To reduce the cost of carbon material will benefit many industries beyond the car industry. Most notable the construction of wind turbines will benefit. After the aviation industry I think the wind power industry could be the second largest consumer of carbon fiber. Often the blades are made by a combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass and even wood. The tendency is that as the cost of carbon fiber goes down they use more of it at the expense of fiberglass and wood. Shipbuilding should also be able to benefit from more use of carbon fiber.

"100 yen for steel and 300-400 yen for aluminum."

First it is interesting to see the pricing in Japanese Yen not American Dollars. Perhaps the international money exchange is beginning to change its standard.

Also, carbon fiber might be strong, but I suspect steel fiber could be used in a resin with a very good weight to strength ratio. My bet is we will see some interesting changes.

Quite an ambitious goal but that's the way to go. The problem is that fabrication process of carbon fiber is slow and energy intensive, but it seems tha using plasme it can be reduced. Also they need to find a way to stamp carbon fiber but it seems that Fiber Foge is quite advanced on this.

800Kg and a CD of 0.15 like and the gaz coonsumptin will halved bringing a Toyota Prius to 100MPG or even better.

they should talk to Aptera on licensing their composite tech:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aptera_Motors

"Aptera Motors uses composites in its construction, both to reduce weight and allow the unconventional body shape. This would normally be prohibitively expensive, but their Panelized Automated Composite Construction (PAC2) process fully automates the manufacture of the composite body."

The real challenge is building a carbon fiber intensive car that isn't destroyed beyond repair in a moderate accident. How do you design in crash repairability? If the structure is easily destroyed resulting in total-write-offs for accidents that would have resulted in repairable damage on a steel-based car, insurance costs could be too steep for the average consumer.

Carbon fiber is much stronger than steel and does not deform like metals do in a collision. Metal body parts can be stamped by large presses. Carbon composites are formed over a mold and then baked to make it stiff. It springs back into shape after most collisions short of NASCAR speeds. Carbon composites will put body shops out of business.

Aptera uses fiberglass, not CF. Lightness helps efficiency three ways:

1. Downsized engine
2. Lower braking losses
3. Less rolling resistance

Electric drive trains address #1 and 2, leaving only #3 which is a minor contributor except at low speed. The reason to use lightweight materials in EV/PHEVs is not efficiency, but cost. Lower weight means less expensive motor/generators, power electronics and batteries. These are the most expensive components of a EV/PHEV, so it's easier to cost-justify CF or aluminum.

The reason CF helps in electric vehicles is the low energy density of batteries - if halving the mass of a vehicle halves (or nearly halves *) the power needed to move it, it almost doubles the range - or halves the size (and cost) of batteries required.

If the range in an ICE goes from 500 to 1000 miles, who cares.
If the range of an EV goes from 100 to 200 miles, it matters.
If the battery cost goes from $10K to $5K it matters.

* at lowish speeds.

The critical challenge for carbon fiber production in a post carbon economy will be to see the raw materials and energy does not come from fossil fuels.
1* steel : 4* aluminum : 10* carbon fibre
In this fossil carbon fueled economy, it is fair to assume that production process reflects the energy inputs. In the case of carbon fibre, the entire process uses almost exclusively large amounts of fossil fuels and so the emissions are a very large problem.
Undoubtably lightweight materials offer good savings in transport but without clean process availability it will be just as important to favour the low emission options.

Kep talking that way we see now changes in gas price on a dayly basis , its time that something start mooving and we are on the way . Yes automobile business enter a new era which Ihope will be benefecial to the planet also let's not forget that it is important for all of us . furthemore in 2008 money crisis is around something has to be done about it , it's a good start, poeple need money for food housing and also a job I cross my finger and I hope changes are coming in.

"Carbon fiber is much stronger than steel and does not deform like metals do in a collision."

This is true, but the conclusion that carbon fiber is indestructible doesn't follow. Carbon fiber is stronger per weight than steel, so to get maximum weight savings, you use less material and end up about equally strong. Carbon doesn't deform like steel, it deforms in a completely different way. Carbon fiber doesn't rust and is usually very resistant to fatigue from normal loads. But fatigue from a stress risor such as might occur in an accident is a big problem with carbon fiber, so carbon fiber repair is different and considerably more complex than for steel. Any accident beyond a door ding on a carbon fiber car probably necessitates a careful inspection of the car to make sure it is still sound.

Carbon fiber also burns. Steel is far more resistant to burning.

"Carbon composites will put body shops out of business."
Probably so, because carbon fiber cars will either be scrapped after an accident, or auto body repair will only be done by the manufacturer.

Carbon fiber is a good thing, but it's a big change, and not everything about carbon fiber is good.

Prius + carbon fiber body + smaller engine + better batteries(laptop batteries) + solar panels (maybe) = crazy awesome fuel efficiency

From my very small understanding of carbon fiber, production is actually quite complex.
You need laminate several layers together and then mold it to shape.
That sounds complex but with a large facility I am sure it can be done in mass quantities.
My question is how well does carbon fiber hold a screw?
or how does one attach pieces of carbon fiber together and keep its integrity. You cant weld it. Do you use a glue? If its a glue is that weather resistant can does the bond hold the integrity of the structure together?
Can an I Frame be replaced with carbon fiber components?
I have read it components can be done in mass for cheap but is assembly a problem?

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