I'm guessing most people are familiar with the "more cowbell" skit from "Saturday Night Live." Lately, I've been wondering if the auto industry should have its own version, but this time all about "more carbon!"
Not to mock the growth of carbon fiber composites in the auto industry, of course. Materials suppliers and processors have been working closely with automakers to see more use of the composite to save weight in cars and trucks. Prices and processing times are falling as use climbs.
Just think about General Motors' use of carbon fiber in the body of the latest Corvette or its upcoming use in the truck bed of the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali.
The development, first, of carbon fiber sheet molded compound and recently of use of chopped carbon fiber in thermoplastics has meant opportunities to beat out traditional materials in hood attachments and other key structural components.
But sometimes, it seems, carbon fiber is just going into new high-profile places in the auto industry is because it's cool and a great marketing gimmick.
Some years ago, I noticed a European sports car which boasted carbon decorative side panels, a spot where it was eye-catching, but not exactly needed for its strength-to-weight benefits.
Now Ford Motor Co. is introducing a special-edition Carbon Series GT for the 2019 model year. An Oct. 30 Ford news release, timed for the SEMA aftermarket auto parts show in Las Vegas, says it has "more visible carbon fiber than any previous model."
"The exterior boasts two exposed carbon fiber stripes with matching A-pillars, lower body panels and gloss carbon fiber wheels," the release states. "The interior features matte carbon fiber sills, air register pods and center console."
Mind you, the Carbon Series drops overall weight by 40 pounds, and the standard GT already uses a lot of carbon fiber. Ford executives have called the GT a great test case for proving out the use of new materials, including carbon fiber.
But the use of polycarbonate for a rear hatch with additional venting isn't as sexy as carbon fiber stripes, I suppose.
So I guess it's really time to celebrate "more carbon!" After all, what's used as a design experiment now may well end up in full production soon.