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With the outbreak of the global energy crisis and the increasing awareness of environmental protection, countries have implemented policies to reduce fuel consumption and turned eyes on lightweight technology. Carbon fiber and its composites are currently the most advanced materials among automotive lightweight solutions. Especially in the past two years, the rapid development of new energy vehicles has brought a huge opportunity to carbon fibers.

In this article, we will discuss the features of carbon fiber and its application in vehicles.

Carbon Fiber Features

With more than 95% carbon content, carbon fiber (CF) is a kind of high-strength material. It is firstly made from the graphite micro-crystals and other organic fibers stacking alongside the fiber axis and then processed through carbonization and graphitization. It is an aggregate of microcrystalline graphite. According to the source of raw materials, it can be divided into polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber, pitch-based carbon fiber, viscose-based carbon fiber, phenolic-based carbon fiber, and vapor-grown carbon fiber. Polyacrylonitrile PAN-based carbon fiber is the most popular type which accounts for about 90% of the market.

After the combination with resin, curing agent, ceramics, metals, etc., carbon fiber is sent to a series of curing treatments and form a structural material called carbon fiber composite. Its metal properties are even high than real metals.

Carbon Fiber Composite Application in Vehicles

Based on the outstanding advantages, carbon fiber composite has been widely used in car bodies and vehicle parts, including interior & exterior trims, chassis, power systems, and so on.

Carbon Fiber Composite Application in Vehicles 1-1
CFRT in car parts 1

It is estimated that the application of carbon fiber composite can reduce the weight of the car body by 40%-60%, equivalent to 1/3-1/6 the weight of steel structures. The results from the British Material Systems Laboratory show that the carbon fiber reinforced polymer car body weighs 172 kg, while the steel body weighs 368 kg, a weight reduction of more than 50%.

Carbon Fiber Composite Car Panel

Carbon fiber composites can be also used in various car panels, such as dry cargo vans and refrigerated trucks. They can help these vehicles to keep the temperature more strictly and stable. For dry cargo vans, they can also reduce the weight greatly.

Car Parts Cases & Solutions Results
Car Body BMW-i3 carbon fiber cockpit 50% weight cut
GM carbon fiber body & chassis 68% weight cut
Subaru WRX STIts CFRT Roof 80% weight cut
Wheel Hub Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R Weighs only 8.6kg
Koenigsegg Agera About 20kg weight cut
Drive Shaft Toyota 86 5.53kg, 50% weight cut
Lamborghini Sesto Elemento 40% to 50% weight cut
Intake System Ford FalconXR6 Sprint carbon fiber manifold Weighs only 235g

In the next part, we will go on to the advantages of carbon fiber and its composites.