Carbon fibre has been around for decades, but this last 10 years we have witness more and more carbon fibre to be present on our production road-going cars.
What are the Advantages of Carbon Fibre?
Cars are mostly made of aluminium and steel, which is you will know aren’t light materials and once you build an entire car from that material that weight adds up. Fortunately, carbon fibre is a great replacement to these metals, as it is a high strength material, but weighs up to 50% less than steel and 30% less than aluminium. So at scale, you can make a car significantly lighter and improve the efficiency and performance relatively easily.
Is it Expensive?
Of course, that lightness comes at a price, carbon fibre requires a human cutting the carbon fibre with scissors and then laying it by hand into a special mould, it is a skilled and time-consuming process. The mould will then need to be heated for long periods before it sets. So there is a big investment in energy, labour and high-tech material making mass production tricky.
Where do we see it Used Most?
The performance gains of building entire chassis from carbon fibre like the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren are amazing, however the cost is very significant. So in most cases, we see small elements of cars being replaced with carbon fibre in smart ways. A good example is the Mercedes-AMG GT which has a carbon fibre roof panel replacing aluminium that was originally used. This means that a large amount of metal can be removed and this weight towards the highest point of the car has been reduced, improving the centre of gravity on the car, which in turn will improve the handling. This is a very smart use of carbon maximising the performance of the car for the smallest cost.
Recently there has been a shift in the automotive trade to move away from aerospace grade carbon and to develop a more cost-effective automotive grade carbon fibre. With clever innovations like infrared heat which are shortening manufacturing times, we are seeing more car makers using carbon fibre for smaller interior trim parts which of course look the part, but also do have weight advantages when you add it all up.
What are the Other Options
Often people in the car community are interested in getting the carbon fibre look, but they don’t need and can’t afford the performance advantages. Luckily for them, there are lots of innovations such as carbon fibre wrap that can take pretty much any surface and give it a genuine carbon look and feel for a tenth of the cost. So there is a solution for everything when it comes to modern carbon fibre.