Reducing Weight on Ford’s Auto Parts is a New Priority
Ford Motor Co and Dow Chemical Co will work to develop cost-effective ways of using carbon fiber for auto parts in cars and trucks as the No.2 U.S. automaker moves to cut vehicle weight to improve overall fuel economy.
The joint venture with Dow Automotive Systems means Ford could start using components made from advanced carbon fiber composites in its vehicle’s auto parts before the end of this decade.
Weight reduction is one way for automakers to boost the efficiency of their fleets in anticipation of rising oil prices and stricter fuel economy standards for upcoming model years.
By 2020, Ford aims to cut between 250 pounds and 750 pounds from its new cars and trucks, partly by using lighter materials in their auto parts. Shedding that weight will reduce the strain on the vehicle’s engine, allowing them more miles per gallon.
Lighter parts can also help Ford improve the range of its electric and hybrid vehicles on a single charge.
“Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technical officer. “However, it’s particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.”
The Obama administration said automakers would have to boost the average fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year.
Preliminary U.S. data shows that the average fuel economy for cars and trucks made for the 2011 model year was 22.8 miles per gallon. Ford’s fuel economy was 21.3 miles per gallon, according to the data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Using carbon fiber for auto parts instead of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.
Yet carbon fiber’s high cost has blocked its wide-scale use. Industry experts say one way to lower the overall cost of carbon fiber is to find cheaper ways of preparing those parts.
via Chicago Tribune