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Carbon Composites and Cars – Technology Watch 2012

Source: Reinforced Plastics

Carbon fibre composites are well established in limited-edition cars. The development of materials and processes to enable their use in high volume vehicles is the challenge. In this article we review some of the developments announced this year.

According to the Frost & Sullivan report “Supply Chain Analysis of the Automotive Carbon Fiber Composites Market”, the automotive carbon fibre composites market is likely to grow to US$95.5 million by 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.6%. The market saw revenues of $14.7 million in 2010.

The report states that fuel efficiency and low carbon emission regulations are playing a major role in raising demand for lightweight automotive composite components to replace metal parts.

Carbon composites are also being widely adopted in alternative vehicles such as electric/hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.

However, Frost & Sullivan notes that barriers to growth include the high cost of carbon fibre and existing production techniques that result in higher manufacturing cycle times (and low-volume production), and concerns over providing a waste disposal/recycling system for carbon composite parts.

There is also a lack of general engineering experience among OEMs that are reluctant to move away from the metal-based assembly lines, which they have already heavily invested in, it says.

10 automotive composite developments in 2012

2012 saw numerous developments and collaborations in the automotive composites sector. Here are 10 key ones (in chronological order).

  1. In March, carbon fibre producer Zoltek and Magna Exteriors and Interiors, a global supplier of automotive systems, including Class A composite panels, announced a partnership to develop low-cost carbon fibre sheet moulding compound (SMC) for the automotive industry. (See Zoltek and Magna join forces on automotive SMC.)

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