Carbon fibre: it’s the holy grail of materials in the world of cars. Being both lighter and stronger than steel, it’s been put to good use in race cars and high-end sports car for several years. However, it’s always come with one key drawback that’s prevented it from trickling down to more affordable products: the price. But General Motors has partnered with Teijin Limited, a carbon fibre composite manufacturer, in hopes that they can bring the material to the masses.
Why Teijin Limited? Well, the company has worked out a technology called carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP), which allows components to be produced with cycle times of less than a minute. This is a much faster cycle than traditional carbon fibre composites, allowing for quicker, and hopefully cheaper, production.
These advantages make the composite a much better candidate for use in mass-produced cars. And in a day and age where fuel economy has become so important, the decreased weight of carbon fibre would be very beneficial (And it looks cool unpainted).
Advanced Carbon Fiber Nears Broad Automotive Use2011-12-08
- GM and Teijin will co-develop technology to reduce vehicle weight, improve fuel economy
- Teijin to open U.S. technical center to facilitate collaborative development
DETROIT – General Motors and Teijin Limited., a leader in the carbon fiber and composites industry, will co-develop advanced carbon fiber composite technologies for potential high-volume use globally in GM cars, trucks and crossovers.
The co-development pact signed today involves use of Teijin’s innovative carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) technology, a faster and more efficient way to produce carbon fiber composites that potentially could be introduced on mainstream vehicles. For Teijin, the arrangement could lead to widening its portfolio beyond specialty and high-end automotive carbon fiber applications.
“Our relationship with Teijin provides the opportunity to revolutionize the way carbon fiber is used in the automotive industry,” said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. “This technology holds the potential to be an industry game changer and demonstrates GM’s long-standing commitment to innovation.”
To support the relationship, Teijin will establish the Teijin Composites Application Center, a technical center in the northern part of the United States early next year.
As carbon fiber is 10 times stronger than regular-grade steel yet only one-quarter of the weight, carbon fiber composites used as automobile components are expected to dramatically reduce vehicle weight. Consumers benefit from lighter weight vehicles with better fuel economy and all the safety benefits that come with vehicles of greater mass.
Teijin’s proprietary breakthrough is its ability to mass-produce carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic components with cycle times of under a minute. Conventional carbon fiber-reinforced composites use thermosetting resins and require a much longer timeframe for molding. This time factor has limited the use of carbon fiber in high-volume vehicles.
Teijin recently received a 2011 Global Automotive Carbon Composites Technology Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan. The technology also was selected by ICIS Innovation Awards 2011 as the overall winner and the recipient of the Best Product Innovation award.
Increasingly, strict global environmental standards and fuel economy regulations have intensified the need to reduce vehicle mass by using lightweight materials in place of high-tension steel or aluminum.
The Teijin Group, which has identified automobiles as a key growth market, accelerated the new technology development through collaboration by the Teijin Composites Innovation Center and Toho Tenax Co. Ltd., where the mass-production technology for carbon fiber reinforced plastic components using thermoplastic resin was successfully developed.
“Teijin’s innovative CFRTP technology, which promises to realize revolutionarily lighter automotive body structures, will play an important role in GM’s initiative to bring carbon fiber components into mainstream vehicles,” said Norio Kamei, senior managing director of Teijin. “We believe our visionary relationship with GM will lead the way in increased usage of green composites in the automotive industry.”
The launch of any carbon fiber-intensive vehicle applications resulting from the relationship would be announced closer to market readiness. The agreement does not involve an exchange of equity between the companies.
About General Motors – General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
About the Teijin Group – Teijin is a global technology-driven group operating in eight main fields: aramid fibers, carbon fibers & composites, polyester fibers, plastics, films, medical & pharmaceuticals, fiber products marketing and IT businesses. Teijin Limited, the holding company for the Teijin Group, is listed on the Tokyo and Osaka stock exchanges. The group, comprising 150 companies and 17,542 employees worldwide, had consolidated sales of JPY 815.7 billion (USD 10.6 billion) and total assets of JPY 761.5 billion (USD 9.9 billion) in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011. http://www.teijin.co.jp/english
Source: General Motors