Mass production of vehicles made with lightweight carbon fiber could soon be realized as costs are beginning to drop, according to MAI Carbon Cluster Management GmbH, a materials-development group supported by Germany's federal government, businesses and research institutions.
Klaus Drechsler, head of MAI, remarked that the EUR80 million ($102 million) project is already making progress toward cutting carbon-fiber production costs by 90 percent. He added that the group has already reached a “halfway point” on its cost-cutting target for suitable carbon-fiber parts.
He expressed confidence that such development would mean increased usage of carbon-fiber in the next generation of cars. Over 70 companies and entities – including BMW and Audi AG – are supporting MAI, which is funded through in 2017.
Other partners include Airbus Group NV, Siemens AG and SGL Carbon SE. Carmakers are particularly seeking to replace standard metal parts with carbon-fiber components, which weigh just around half of the current materials being used.
Roland Berger Strategy Consultants remarked that carbon fiber components were usually reserved for high-end sports cars since it costs up to $20 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) in its raw form, while the price for a kilogram of steel is less than $1.
The key is to really drive automation" in production, Drechsler remarked, adding that there are different scenarios about how carmakers can use carbon fiber. The passenger frame for BMW’s i3 electric city car and i8 hybrid sports car are made from carbon fiber, which is sourced from a joint venture between the carmaker and SGL Carbon.