Later this year, Toray Industries Inc. will begin supplying Toyota Motor Corp. (TMC) and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI) with carbon fiber for car bodies. This marks the first time that carbon fiber will be used for auto bodies mass-produced in Japan.
Reports indicate that Toyota will use carbon fiber for the hood and roof of the Lexus LFA, a luxury sports car that will start production in December.
Fuji Heavy will offer carbon fiber roofs, which would be an option for its standard-class sports car. Toray’s new production technology has made these new uses of carbon fiber possible because it cuts the costs for dies in half.
Typically, carbon fiber costs are over 20 times higher than those of steel, but with this technology, the gap can be narrowed to about five times. The cost difference has also now become narrower because of the increase in steel prices. Production of carbon fiber would be increased with the more uses of carbon fiber in car bodies and as a result, costs would be reduced further.
The greater use of carbon fiber in car bodies will result to the addition of 30,000 tons worth of demand per year. This is comparable to the entire demand for carbon fiber currently.
Lexus revealed its new LFA supercar at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, promising to deliver a supreme driving experience. Lexus said the brief of the LFA project was to keep its weight to an absolute minimum. To achieve this, Lexus switched from using aluminum for the construction to advanced CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) for the chassis and bodywork.
CFRP is around four times stronger than aluminum. CRFP offers an exceptionally stiff and strong structure while major weight advantages. In fact, it offers a weight saving of around 100 kg over an equivalent aluminum body. Lexus used CFRP for around 65 percent of the body-in-white of the new LFA, with aluminum alloy used for the remaining 35 percent.
The new Lexus LFA is powered by a naturally aspirated 4,805-cc V10 engine that is capable of providing up to 560 hp of output and up to 480 Nm of torque available at 6,800 rpm. Interestingly, 90 percent of this torque value is already available from 3,700 rpm.
Boasting of a red line of 9,000 rpm, the V10 engine allows the new Lexus LFA to accelerate from nil to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.7 seconds and achieve a top speed of 325 km/h (202 mph). Since the LFA has a kerb weight of 1,480 kg, the it boasts of a power-to-weight ratio of 373 bhp per ton, as well as a specific output of 115 bhp per liter. The new LFA will be sold at around €368,000. [via GreenCarCongress]