Honda, Nissan, Toray to develop CF for cars

Goal is high-volume production of a material that can begin to affordably replace steel by 2015. 

Japanese automakers Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. announced on July 24 that they have joined with Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) to develop a new carbon fiber material for use in auto bodies, aiming to mass produce cars that are lighter by as much as 40 percent than steel-built vehicles. The group aims to establish mass production technology for the new material by the middle of the next decade, the Nikkei business daily reported, without citing a source.

According to the report, the three will be joined in their efforts by Mitsubishi Rayon Co. (Tokyo, Japan) and Toyoba Co., plastic parts maker Takagi Seiko Corp. and researchers from the University of Tokyo.

The announcement comes during steep increases in iron ore prices, which have in turn inflated steel prices and raw material costs for automakers across the world. Although carbon fiber  is several times more expensive than steel or aluminum, the price gap is expected to narrow because there is significant room for increasing production of the new material, according to the report.

If successful, the efforts will help produce lighter vehicles than can also improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Successful mass production would also be a big leap in the evolution of the automotive industry and could allow carbon fiber to migrate to commercial production vehicles.