Sleek body of a modern concept car
Automotive designers have been using carbon fiber composites for about 50 years. They are widely used in automotive engineering to make intricate shapes with desired rigidity, strength, and weight.
It is hard to imagine today’s world without automobiles which became part of our lives. So, we can witness a continuous evolution in this area producing higher technology and better state-of-the-art vehicles all the time. The pursuit of fuel economy, power gain through weight reduction, and eye-catching appearance brought attention to composite materials.
Carbon fiber has been used in automotive engineering for many years, and the scope of application grows wider every year.
Carbon composites are lighter and stronger than metal. End users benefit from the better fuel economy of lighter vehicles which still meet all safety requirements.
Carbon fiber reinforced plastic is 5 times lighter than steel and 1.8 times lighter than aluminum
Carbon fiber composites are highly resistant to corrosion
This material is tens times stronger than steel of standard grades
||Tensile strength, MPa||Tensile modulus, GPa||Elongation at break, %||Density, g/cm3|
|Carbon fiber made of PAN precursor||high strength, standard modulus||3500-5000||200-280||1.4-2.0||1.75-1.80|
|high strength, intermediate modulus||4500-7000||280-325||1.7-2.1||1.73-1.81|
|ultra high modulus||2500-4000||450-600||0.7-1.0||1.85-1.95|
Carbon fiber is the most widely used polymer material for making structural elements and sleek aerodynamic panels of race cars and supercars.
The majority of well-known automotive companies produce vehicles with bodies containing 50% of carbon fiber aiming to improve performance of the modern concept cars and make them visually attractive.
Composites are used to make various wear parts for automobiles. This means longer life and heavier duty performance for tires, rims, brake pads, and better clutch performance for clutch plates.
Carbon composites are used to make seat frames, gear sticks, dashboards, and decorative panels for eye-catching appearance and longer life of the vehicle interior.
Carbon and aramid fibers are widely used in racing wear. This includes back protectors, suits, helmets, carbon insert boots, gloves, and more. Such outfit looks attractive, improves safety and comfort (light weight is critical for helmets).
Nowadays, the bodies of virtually all concept cars from the well-known auto majors contain more than 50% of carbon fiber composites.
The history of using composites in automotive engineering dates back to the 1960s when the new technologies emerged and the aerospace industry was developing.
The automotive industry started using lightweight, strong, and rigid carbon composites in motor racing. These material properties are critical for motor racing, since a race car can come in faster.
Formula 1® race cars with composite chassis let the driver walk away from a crash scene after a collision at a speed of more than 200 mph.
The Italian ATR Group known for their works for Ferrari, Porsche, and Bugatti is one of the largest manufacturers of automotive composites.
The new generation BMW i-series exemplifies an efficient use of composites. The vehicle now weighs 300 kg less with roof braces, B and C pillars, side skirts, and central tunnel of carbon composite material.
Carbon composites play an important role in automotive engineering. Visually attractive and intricate shapes are made of this strong and lightweight material.
Currently, supercars are the main consumers of carbon fiber composites. Though, technologies are evolving, and the contemporary industry’s focus on innovative materials will eventually reduce the net cost of carbon composites and promote these materials for making stock cars.