Ford and Dow studying carbon fiber composites in high-volume auto production

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DEARBORN, MICH. (April 12, 9:35 a.m. ET) — Ford Motor Co. is joining forces with Dow Chemical Co. to investigate ways to bring carbon fiber into high-volume auto production.

The research will combine the efforts from both companies to focus on ways to use the composite to reduce the weight of cars— part of the strategy by Dearborn-based Ford to take up to 750 pounds off the average vehicle.

“There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles: improving the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reducing the amount of work that powertrains need to do,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president of research and innovation in an April 12 press release.

Ford has already been focusing on the power end of that equation through its EcoBoost engine technology. With Midland, Mich.-based Down, the companies must look at material cost, faster processing than traditional carbon fiber molding and attachment methods to join composites and metal.

Carbon fiber is already in production in limited volumes on specialty cars. A cross-section of automakers – most notably Germany’s BMW AG – have invested in production and processing for carbon fiber to develop its use in the auto industry.

 “Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle,” Mascarenas said. “However, it’s particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.”

The joint development will leverage work Dow has already started through existing partnerships with Turkish carbon fiber manufacturer Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii AS and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

If the research effort is successful, Ford could begin using carbon fiber components by the end of this decade, the companies said.

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