DETROIT (Dec. 8, 1:45 p.m. ET) — General Motors LLC is joining the list of carmakers putting development money into carbon fiber, with an agreement to co-develop a thermoplastic carbon fiber composite for potential use in high-volume production.
The agreement, announced Dec. 8 by Detroit-based GM and Teijin Ltd. of Tokyo, will look at the technologies needed to bring Teijin's carbon fiber to use in global mainstream auto production, moving the use of the composite beyond high-end, low-volume vehicles.
“Our relationship with Teijin provides the opportunity to revolutionize the way carbon fiber is used in the automotive industry,” said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky in a press release. “This technology holds the potential to be an industry game changer.”
Teijin's proprietary composite uses a thermoplastic base rather than a thermoset, which opens the possibility for processing cycle times of less than a minute. That would make the material easier to use at standard auto production volumes.
Teijin said it will establish the Teijin Composites Application Center at an unspecified location in the northern U.S. in early 2012 as part of the development agreement.
German automakers BMW AG and Daimler AG, Italy's Lamborghini SpA and other carmakers have advanced carbon fiber development programs already in the works, while GM, Chrysler and other competitors have been using the composite in some parts for limited production already.
With government demands for better fuel economy performance, however, automakers are looking at a variety of technologies to reduce vehicle weight. Carbon fiber's potential to replace steel in structural parts has increased interest in its use for future cars.
The interest has also prompted the Society of Automotive Engineers International to produce its first book focusing on carbon fiber composites for the auto industry.
The technical book, written by Jackie D. Rehkopf, senior researcher for auto supplier Plasan Carbon Composites, will provide an overview of carbon fiber issues specifically geared to the auto industry and its expected use in the next five to 10 years.
SAE said the book, published in November, looks at the material, its manufacturing processes, machining and joining issues and recycling.