On April 12, Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich.) announced a partnership with Dow Automotive Systems (Meridian, Mich.) to research the use of advanced carbon fiber composites in high-volume vehicles. Cutting the weight of new vehicles by as much as 750 lb/340 kg by 2020 is a key component of Ford’s strategy to improve fuel efficiency enough to meet new fuel efficiency standards of more than 50 mpge. “Vehicle weight reduction for our customers through intelligent design with a materials focus has been a priority for [us],” says Florian Schattenmann, R&D director, Dow Automotive Systems. “This partnership with Ford on carbon fiber composites is a logical next step.”
Until recently, carbon fiber has been too costly for use in high-volume, mainstream applications. But Ford and Dow researchers will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fiber and develop manufacturing methods for high-volume auto parts, particularly in Ford’s plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, says Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and VP, Research and Innovation. They will leverage work that Dow has done with carbon fiber manufacturer AKSA (Istanbul, Turkey) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tenn.). Ford hopes carbon composites will appear on new Ford vehicles before the end of this decade.