New analysis by Lux Research shows that carbon fiber demand will grow at an overall 13% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 36,000 tons in 2013 to 86,000 tons in 2020. In parallel, CFRP demand will also grow at 13% CAGR, from $15.4 billion in 2013 to $35 billion in 2020 as the volumes of CFRP grow to 183,000 tons.
|CFRP market growth by tonnage (top) and by US$ billions (bottom). Source: Lux Research. Click to enlarge.
The overall outlook for CFRP market growth is in line with Lux’s previous 2012 forecast, though demand in the wind sector will be smaller and in the automotive larger than previously anticipated. Wind carbon fiber demand will reach just 22,000 MT, compared to the 2012 forecast of 53,000 MT. This is driven by a decreased growth rate for off-shore turbines, where CFRP’s value proposition is greatest and a general lack of momentum for CFRPs in the more established on-shore market.
In contrast, initial launches of CFRPs in automotive now promise somewhat faster growth than previously expected, to $6 billion in 2020 (compared to $2.6 billion in Lux’s 2012 forecast).
By 2020, the automotive market will use more CFRP than the aerospace industry, although the revenue associated with automotive remains lower as the CFRP fibers, resins and process technology used are less demanding.
Better than expected sales of models such as the BMW i series have accelerated adoption, primarily in structural components where high temperature performance or Class A finish are not required. Beyond 2020, the onset of mainstream adoption in automotive will drive volumes that will dwarf other industries, but companies wanting a piece of that action will need to be positioned before the inflexion point in the market, or pay a massive premium to buy in late, the research firm said.
Despite solid incumbents in this industry, there is plenty of room for materials and process developers to bring value. Numerous start-ups, academic labs, and government groups are developing improved CFRP technology, but these groups are heavily focused on intermediate and final composite part production, with few working on fiber production, sizing, and recycling, where there are also significant unmet needs, according to Lux.