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Project Aims to Cut Costs of Producing Carbon Fiber by 90 Percent

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/10/2014 Kelly Pleskot
2014 BMW i8© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW i8

Carbon fiber is a common term dropped when talking about exotic cars like the BMW i8 or Lamborghini Gallardo. But thanks to a research group backed by German automakers, carbon fiber is expected to get a lot more affordable, as researchers think they can cut the cost of producing the material by 90 percent.

Research

MAI Carbon Cluster Management, which is supported by the German government, says it has hit the "halfway point" in reaching its goal. "We'll see a lot more carbon-fiber use in the next generation of cars," Klaus Drechsler, head of the project, told Automotive News.

Project Aims to Cut Costs of Producing Carbon Fiber by 90 Percent

Along with Audi, another major backer of the project is BMW, a company that has made significant efforts itself in the area of carbon fiber technology. Just recently, it invested $200 million to triple carbon fiber production to 9000 tons a year on six different production lines. The company plans to expand carbon fiber use from just its electric "i" models to a wider range of cars.

Carbon fiber can cost around 20 times as much as steel, which is significantly heavier and typically costs less than $1 per kilogram. Automakers have also begun using aluminum to reduce vehicle weight, although carbon fiber is still 30 percent lighter than that material. Carbon fiber is also exceptionally strong, as it is used in jet liners and fighter planes.

So how will researchers be able to reduce carbon fiber costs? Automation and large-scale manufacturing hold the key to this goal. Meanwhile, the Augsburg, Germany-based research project has received funding through at least 2017, when we may expect to see more progress in this technology.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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