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Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream?

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the build-it-better dept.

Transportation 152

cartechboy (2660665) writes "To date, carbon fiber has been expensive and presents different production challenges than traditional steel and aluminum. But now it seems as if the advanced material is about to become truly mainstream--BMW has announced it plans to triple carbon fiber reinforced plastic output at its Moses Lake facility in Washington state. Currently, the SGL Group plant, a joint venture partner of BMW Group, has the production capacity for about 3,000 tons of carbon fiber per annum. Two productions lines are currently going with the output dedicated to BMW's i3 and i8 plug-in vehicles. SGL is already working on a third and fourth production line which would double production to 6,000 tons per year, but a fifth and sixth are on the way, set to triple capacity to 9,000 tons every year. This extra output won't be reserved exclusively for BMW's i range. Several future BMW models will make use of the lightweight material. Now the only question is how long before carbon fiber vehicle construction becomes as common as aluminum?"

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Yes (2, Insightful)

Richy_T (111409) | about 3 months ago | (#46980607)

Yes

Re:Yes (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 3 months ago | (#46981163)

Take it out of the atmosphere, put it into electric cars.

Re:Yes (3, Interesting)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 3 months ago | (#46981301)

Once I learned about carbon fiber thermoplastics [fiberforge.com] , I realized that carbon fiber would be amenable to mass production. The idea is that you lay down the fibers using robotic technology. Then you encase the fiber in a plastic resin that becomes soft at high temperatures. Now you have made a flat carbon fiber sheet similar to sheet steel. Finally you use a hot press that presses the sheet into nearly any shape desired...ie. car parts. This is similar to how we form steel into car body parts. This processes is highly suitable for mass production. So yes, carbon fiber is becoming mainstream.

Re:Yes (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 3 months ago | (#46981797)

OH NO SIR! You will not break Betteridge's law of headlines. This is /. and that will not be tolerated.

Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream? (1)

sethradio (2603921) | about 3 months ago | (#46980611)

Only with hipsters.

Re:Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980881)

Kind of by definition, once it's mainstream, it's beyond just hipsters.

But, hey, hipster douchebags who feel the need to say the word hipster need to justify their own existence.

You, are a hipster douchebag, but apparently that is now mainstream too.

Re:Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981141)

Kind of by definition, once it's mainstream, it's beyond just hipsters.

Not really. Hipsters are typically adopts something the moment it goes mainstream, not before. Then they claim that they were into it before it was popular.
Anyone who knows a couple of hipsters know that they wouldn't be caught dead with anything that isn't popular. (Which is a requirement for being before it becomes popular.)

Do you know what group of people is into stuff before they become popular? Nerds.
The people who were into Apple products before the mainstream and the hipsters adopted it were called nerds.
The people that had thick black frames for their glasses before it became popular? Nerds.

Hipster might be the cutting edge of mainstream but they never ever steps away from being mainstream.

I don't think "mainstream" is the word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980621)

Since carbon fiber has been used for a billion products in the general consumer market for decades.

Recycling (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980631)

Carbon fiber is the least recyclable material ever.

No doubt they will claim they are recycling it in some unholy process, but it would be far more environmentally friendly to produce the raw stock.

Now steel and aluminum are highly recyclable. And cleanly too.

Re:Recycling (1)

wiggles (30088) | about 3 months ago | (#46980735)

So you have a choice - less energy use via lighter cars, or easily recyclable cars. Where is your particular environmental itch?

Re:Recycling (2, Interesting)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#46980799)

No cars. Just walk, bike or use public transportation. That's what all the policy makers want you to do anyway.

Re:Recycling (2)

beelsebob (529313) | about 3 months ago | (#46980829)

So you have a choice - less energy use (and hence less food consumption) via lighter bikes, or easily recyclable bikes. Where is your particular environmental itch?

Re:Recycling (3, Insightful)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#46980915)

Where is your particular environmental itch?

Crotch Rot.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980871)

No cars. Just walk, bike or use public transportation. That's what all the policy makers want you to do anyway.

That's because they're Commies who want to control all forms of transport. Get rid of cars, and those evil workers can't just go wherever they want.

The funny part is that the Chinese Commies are desperate to dump their bikes to own cars after living in the car-free utopia for decades, while the Western Commies want everyone to dump their cars for bikes.

Re:Recycling (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 3 months ago | (#46980949)

The Chi-coms don't want to be commies. The liberals^Wprogressives do.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980955)

The majority of actual "commies" are motorbike owners.

Re:Recycling (1)

Jerslan (1088525) | about 3 months ago | (#46981049)

So let me see if I understand your argument... "Western Commies" want people to dump cars for bikes so they'll be more reliant on public transport and more easily controlled? That makes no sense.

I know people who regularly rode their bikes for a 40 mile round-trip commute. They still owned cars, they just used them less often (saving gas and getting a good cardio workout in the process). Last I checked the idea of not spending money when you don't absolutely have to was very Capitalist.

Be less of a tool.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980877)

No cars. Just walk, bike or use public transportation.

You have a choice of steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber for your bike frame. Durr...

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981067)

and you think a 40ft long bus that weighs at least 7-8 tons, and carries maybe 5-10 passengers on average per trip while stopping and starting constantly every few hundred yards is efficient?

walking/bike is probably the most efficient. it's also the most impractical.

Sure subways etc. seem efficient. But that's only because the all-in cost is not factored into account (maintenance, electricity, mining for steel for the railway tracks, drilling holes in the ground etc)

Re:Recycling (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46981105)

No cars. Just walk, bike or use public transportation. That's what all the policy makers want you to do anyway.

In America, cars are subsidized, while bike paths and public transportation get crumbs.

Re:Recycling (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 3 months ago | (#46982217)

Not where I live. I wish my policy makers were pushing hard for more transit options.

Re:Recycling (2)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 3 months ago | (#46982413)

I think using public transportation is an excellent idea for other people to do.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980947)

Sorry, in what way it carbon fiber less recyclable then any other form of carbon?
There are many cutting techniques, so there could be uses for whole pieces. The glues that hold them together are likely similar to other glues, and can be broken down. And though carbon can form strong bonds, it seems you could use that fusion reactor in the sky to break the bonds if the current structure isn't to your liking.

Re:Recycling (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about 3 months ago | (#46980957)

We went through this exact thing with bicycle frames about 10 years ago. CF is lighter and more rigid than aluminum, but if it gets a crack or gouge in it, the frame can't be mended... it has to be tossed, and the only real way to "recycle" CF is to toss it into a thermal depolymerization machine and "boil" the epoxy and CF (using lots of water and heat) back to crude oil.

CF has its place, but on a vehicle where weight is less a limiting issue than on bicycles, it might be best off to stick with recyclable stuff like aluminum because of the volume of vehicles made. Aluminum can be recycled fairly easily... CF can't be used for much once it hits the scrapyard.

Re:Recycling (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 months ago | (#46981077)

That, and CF shatters upon impact (dispersing the KE with it). If the unibody was made of the stuff, kiss the car goodbye; it's totaled!. OTOH if it's just the body panels, you replace them.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981165)

That's not all bad...it increases my profit as a shareholder, and really, it's better to absorb the energy than to transfer it to the occupants. Besides, the unibody probably isn't the expensive part; the rest of it that's not damaged can be resold, just like a totalled car right now. Insurance companies will protect us (selfishly) frmo this being taken too far.

Re:Recycling (1)

EvanED (569694) | about 3 months ago | (#46981877)

Insurance companies will protect us (selfishly) frmo this being taken too far.

Or they'll just raise rates by $100/6mth and what are you going to do... not have a car?

Though actually, if hypothetically CF is able to dissipate energy in a useful way better than crumpling metal, it could hypothetically reduce injuries enough that the total cost of accidents decrease even if lots of CF needs to be replaced. I'm a bit skeptical of that, but it's certainly true that it's not hard to rack up enough medical bills to make even a brand-new car look cheap...

Re:Recycling (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 3 months ago | (#46981133)

...CF is lighter and more rigid than aluminum, but if it gets a crack or gouge in it, the frame can't be mended... it has to be tossed...

Aluminum bikes have problems too. Pure aluminum has zero fatigue limit [wikipedia.org] , which means that it WILL eventually crack. Zero fatigue limit means that even the smallest stress on an aluminum frame will cause it to fatigue. If you knocked on an aluminum frame with your fingernail enough times in the same spot, it would eventually fail.

Re:Recycling (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 3 months ago | (#46981187)

If you knocked on an aluminum frame with your fingernail enough times in the same spot, it would eventually fail.

Your manicures must be *really*difficult and expensive.

Re:Recycling (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about 3 months ago | (#46981423)

"f you knocked on an aluminum frame with your fingernail enough times in the same spot, it would eventually fail." In short, keep it away from Sheldon...

Re:Recycling (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 3 months ago | (#46981867)

You're going a little over board on the fatigue issue with Aluminum. How many times do you think you'd have to tap that frame with your fingernail?

If you are really worried about it, get a steel frame.

Re:Recycling (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 3 months ago | (#46981879)

Aluminum bikes have problems too. Pure aluminum has zero fatigue limit [wikipedia.org], which means that it WILL eventually crack. Zero fatigue limit means that even the smallest stress on an aluminum frame will cause it to fatigue. If you knocked on an aluminum frame with your fingernail enough times in the same spot, it would eventually fail.

Which is why using aluminium for rims is a terrible good idea.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981913)

It's a good thing then that aluminum bike frames are not pure aluminum, but alloys.

Re:Recycling (1)

Whatsisname (891214) | about 3 months ago | (#46982319)

While it is true Aluminum doesn't have a fatigue limit, the breaking point depends on what the stresses are in the material. "will eventually crack" can translate to 20 minutes of riding, or 20 million years of riding. An aluminum frame can be made where its fatigue life well exceeds the practical life of the bicycle.

If it takes 4.54 billion years of knocking the frame with your fingernail for the frame to fail, there really isn't a problem with it.

Re:Recycling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981209)

You can actually get your CF bike frame repaired. It's not cheap, and not as easy as hammering out a ding on steel.

See calfeedesign.com Fixed my carbon Colnogo so you can't tell I ever ran into a trailer.

Burn it (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 3 months ago | (#46981481)

High temp burning should produce decent energy output without pollution. IF they don't use some goofy plastic it can be burned hot enough and well enough to not be a problem.

Sometimes recycling is just not worth the effort.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46982017)

I have a plastic fantastic (sarcasm for those from Betelgeuse) carbon Cannondale Super 6 Evo that I race in the So Cal masters criteriums. It seems like every Sunday at least one carbon fork gets sheared off of a bike in a crash. Not only are the frames/forks carbon but the components are too: crank arms, pedal bodies, wheel rims etc. Between the Evo and my previous carbon bike (a French Time) I've broken more carbon parts and frames in the past 5 years than I ever broke in the '80s early '90s when bike had steel frames and forged aluminum parts. I know racing cyclists want the lowest weight possible and the engineers take out all the mass they can, but it seems like the reliability of carbon fiber is questionable.

Re:Recycling (1)

unimacs (597299) | about 3 months ago | (#46982277)

Tell that to this guy: http://applemanbicycles.com/re... [applemanbicycles.com]

His business is custom built carbon fiber bikes but he got through the lean times by repairing CF frames. He still does it and he's not the only one.

Re:Recycling (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46981017)

Carbon fiber is the least recyclable material ever.

The world is not running out of carbon. The amount of energy saved by building lighter vehicles dwarfs the amount saved through recycling.

Re:Recycling (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 3 months ago | (#46981205)

yeah, but we are running out of places to just put trash

Re:Recycling (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46982127)

yeah, but we are running out of places to just put trash

No we aren't [slate.com] . America has enough landfill space to last for centuries at current rates. The "landfill crisis" that was all the rage in the 1990s was made up by journalists and never had any connection to reality.

Recycling facts (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#46981277)

The world is not running out of carbon.

That doesn't mean you want to waste a lot of energy generating non-recyclable carbon fiber products that will fill up landfills.

The amount of energy saved by building lighter vehicles dwarfs the amount saved through recycling.

I'm guessing you aren't aware of the energy savings from recycling aluminum [wikipedia.org] . Recycling aluminum requires roughly 5% of the energy required to create it from bauxite. Furthermore you can recycle aluminum multiple times whereas you effectively cannot recycle carbon fiber at all. (technically it is possible but economically it is not) Much or even all of the fuel savings through lighter weight vehicles will be given back when the product needs to be disposed of.

Re:Recycling facts (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 3 months ago | (#46982109)

That doesn't mean you want to waste a lot of energy generating non-recyclable carbon fiber products that will fill up landfills.

It only takes up space in landfills if you fail to incinerate it. You need a proper incineration plant to avoid generating toxic smoke, but that is rather old technology at this point, and you get useful heat out of the process.

Re:Recycling (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46981649)

"As mankind built more things out of unrecyclable carbon fiber, bigger and bigger landfills were needed to contain it, thus solving the problem once and for all!"

Re:Recycling (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#46982663)

Yes, but...

Re:Recycling (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 3 months ago | (#46982073)

It's carbon, surely it burns?

I don't see a problem with turning coal into a useful product before it gets burned for electricity.

You're talking about luxury cars in a recession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980693)

Carbon fiber is still as far away from mainstream as it is possible to get. If you thought BMW replacement parts and maintenance were expensive, add carbon fiber on top.

Re:You're talking about luxury cars in a recession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980821)

The i3 certainly isn't a luxury vehicle. It's not even priced like a luxury vehicle.

Re:You're talking about luxury cars in a recession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981669)

"Luxury" is maybe a bit much, but it's definitely towards the high end:

1) The average new car price in the US was about $32K; looks like the i3 starts at a little more than $40K

2) I'd guess the median new car price is lower, as cars at the low end of the spectrum are almost certainly more popular than cars at the upper end, which means the mean will be skewed up.

3) Presumably that number includes SUVs and maybe even pickups; if you compared sedans, probably the average would be even lower.

Re:You're talking about luxury cars in a recession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981839)

Please don't forget that it's an EV on top of that. Compared to the high end Nissan Leaf the BMW is just a stone's throw away and has all the same features if not a bit more to justify the cost. I agree that it's a world of difference price wise if you're comparing an i3 to an econo Kia but that's not a fair assessment.

Re:You're talking about luxury cars in a recession (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46981717)

It's not THAT far from mainstream, but...it's not quite mainstream, and most likely never will be due to the ridiculous amount of labor required to make a CF part. The first time an economy car goes on sale with a CF part on it, then we'll talk.

Calling Betteridge's Law on this one (1)

somepunk (720296) | about 3 months ago | (#46980759)

BMW... mainstream..?
Anway, tripling a small number is still a small number. Whether the numbers are small is impossible to judge from the summary.. or the article.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Calling Betteridge's Law on this one (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 3 months ago | (#46980927)

BMW... mainstream..?

Aren't they? I see them all over the place. They're certainly not some rare luxury car like a Rolls-Royce (*) or Ferrari.

But it would be a nice change to the trend of cars getting ever heavier.

(*) Well, except that they own Rolls Royce of course.

Re:Calling Betteridge's Law on this one (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 3 months ago | (#46981725)

BMW... mainstream..?

Aren't they? I see them all over the place.

Depends on how you define mainstream. By the definition of belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, probably not. They'd probably be considered more niche then mainstream since they only have about 2% of the US market with 300k vehicles sold in the US. And if you look at what BMW is manufacturing the carbon fiber for, the i3 and i8 electric vehicles, it's even a smaller niche with a total of 50k units sold combined over the next two years.

Re:Calling Betteridge's Law on this one (2)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 months ago | (#46981239)

It might not be Ford's 15.6 million cars but 1.86 million car sales isn't exactly niche either. Perhaps your "for the 1%" mindset is a bit inaccurate. As to the comparison, piecing together information... 20% of world steel output goes to automobile manufacturing. World crude steel output for 2012 was 1548 Mt so I suppose that means about 309.6 megatons goes to cars. So relatively speaking 9000 tons isn't much of a dent, but it does sound like a significant step towards building manufacturer confidence in the material as well as gaining some economies of scale.

It already is - for bicycles (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about 3 months ago | (#46980805)

OK, so a pedal bicycle is a very low powered road vehicle, but the same equation applies. To achieve a better power to weight ratio, you can either increase power or decrease weight - and decreased weight has the added bonus of lower loads on suspension and tyres in fast corners.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46981509)

Not sure if it applies to bikes, but with a car, unless you're generating a significant amount of downforce, you want a fair amount of weight on the tires during cornering. Especially on the control (steering) wheels.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

thelovebus (264467) | about 3 months ago | (#46981951)

There'll be plenty enough weight to corner safely, even with a full carbon monocoque, for passenger car driving.

Extra downforce is really only needed on racing cars.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46982029)

There'll be plenty enough weight to corner safely, even with a full carbon monocoque, for passenger car driving.

Extra downforce is really only needed on racing cars.

It's needed on race cars for 2 reasons: A) some of them go really, really fast (like, obscenely fast), and B) race cars are typically far, far lighter than your average street going vehicle.

Believe me, you start making road cars that weigh as little as an Ariel Atom, but don't generate enough downforce to compensate, there're going to be problems.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 3 months ago | (#46982193)

Friction scales almost linearly with mass. If you add mass, you get more friction, but you have more mass you need to accelerate, so you have not gained or lost anything.

Also, look up how much the original Mini Cooper weighed. Almost exactly the same as an Atom.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46982355)

It also had a 0-60 time of 13 seconds, a top speed of 90 mph, and a fair amount of its total weight hovering over the control wheels; and I still wouldn't recommend trying to take a hard corner at any decent rate of speed in one of those things, any more than I would recommend doing the same in a Model A.

Look at F1 cars as an example: when not screaming down the track, generating tons of downforce, and keeping the slicks nice and hot, they're damn near impossible to control, let alone corner.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#46982301)

Not really, cornering in a regular car (we are not talking race vehicles here) depends mostly on the coefficient of friction between the tires and road surface and the amount of body roll (suspension and weight). Decreasing the weight doesn't change the coefficient of friction but will decrease the amount of body roll so making things lighter will help out in cornering. If being light weight meant it would handle like crap then those tiny little Lotus Elises would probably be amongst the worst handling vehicles on the road today but instead considered to be pretty close to the best.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46982667)

Not really, cornering in a regular car (we are not talking race vehicles here) depends mostly on the coefficient of friction between the tires and road surface and the amount of body roll (suspension and weight). Decreasing the weight doesn't change the coefficient of friction but will decrease the amount of body roll so making things lighter will help out in cornering.

Decreasing the weight does decreases the coefficient of friction, as it lessens the amount of force that's pushing the tires against the pavement. That is, if I understand the Wiki article correctly when it states:

The coefficient of friction (COF), often symbolized by the Greek letter , is a dimensionless scalar value which describes the ratio of the force of friction between two bodies and the force pressing them together.

If being light weight meant it would handle like crap then those tiny little Lotus Elises would probably be amongst the worst handling vehicles on the road today but instead considered to be pretty close to the best.

One of the best, under $100K, in America. [caranddriver.com] But, according to the article I just cited, even with a large amount of that handling prowess being the result of fancy electronic nannies, there were still issues of lift-off understeer, likely a result of poor weight distribution common with mid/rear engine cars.

Gotta admit, though, today's mid/rear engine cars are far more well-engineered (and thus, better able to handle higher power/weight ratios) than the ones I grew up with in the '80s and '90s.

Re:It already is - for bicycles (1)

unrtst (777550) | about 3 months ago | (#46982427)

To achieve a better power to weight ratio, you can either increase power or decrease weight...

However, as in the realm of cars, the reduction in weight that carbon fiber offers only makes sense in extreme cases (usually the very high end cars).

Average weight for a new road bike is around 20-22lb. Steel frame ones can be easily found weighing less (ex. 19lb), same for both the others. Really high end carbon fiber bikes may weight around 14lb. A fairly cheap steel road bike frame alone is about 4.5lb (ex. http://www.performancebike.com... [performancebike.com] ). .... now to my point... I can afford to lose a lot more than the difference in frame weights. I normally carry a bag full of tools and repair kit and pump etc that weights way more than the difference. A typical water bottle (full) is around a pound. A couple pounds lighter is not going to help me or any average rider.

I think the same goes for cars... even these electric ones. The cost of a tiny bit more electricity or gas use will be greatly outweighed if a part gets a ding, let alone the recycling costs.

Carbon Fiber? (2)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 3 months ago | (#46980817)

You mean Italian chrome?

So BMW defines what counts as "mainstream" (2)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 3 months ago | (#46980823)

You learn something new every day!

Re:So BMW defines what counts as "mainstream" (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 months ago | (#46981539)

Ownership of a late model BMW might not fit the budget of most blue-collar folks, but if you head to any moderately affluent city you'll spot nearly as many BMWs as you do Hyundais. Globally annual sales of BMWs are only about 1/7 that of Ford.

Re:So BMW defines what counts as "mainstream" (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#46982341)

Well a good used one is very attainable since they tend to not hold their value. I figure I will probably end up driving a used carbon fiber BMW in about 10 years unless my current one gets totaled in an accident before then. Also there are lots of people who like to think they are rich, that and I don't think an entry level 1 series isn't that expensive.

you Fail It. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980825)

OS. Now BSDI is used to. SHIT ON

My cane (2)

jockm (233372) | about 3 months ago | (#46980845)

My cane is made of carbon fiber, so I would say carbon fiber is already "mainstream". What they are talking about is it becoming a commodity. Not just mainstream, but ubiquitous.

Re:My cane (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46980925)

My cane is made of carbon fiber, so I would say carbon fiber is already "mainstream". What they are talking about is it becoming a commodity. Not just mainstream, but ubiquitous.

This.

Some of us remember when the only carbon fiber you could find in an automobile were the dashboards and whale-tails of somebody's run-down Honda Civic.

Good news for electric cars ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46980853)

Every kilogram removed increases the range, and maybe the acceptability of electric cars.

How? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about 3 months ago | (#46980857)

It'd be interesting to see how they plan to do this. The main obstacle to mass production using CFRP (or any fiber-reinforced plastics) is that it takes much longer to put fibers in a mould, impregnate them and have the mixture dry to the point where it can be removed from the mould, than it would to stamp a sheet of aluminium into shape.

Re:How? (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#46981293)

This is injection molded fiber reinforced plastic, not sheets of fiber laid down with crossing fibers then glued together and autoclaved or vacuum bagged.

Sets up in more or less the same time as the plastic, but the fibers make the process more abrasive. Not nearly as strong as hand laid CF.

CF in Cars (5, Informative)

bmajik (96670) | about 3 months ago | (#46980885)

BMW has already been putting CF into weight-sensitive areas of the car, like the roof panels on certain models. Up high is one of the worst places to carry weight from a vehicle dynamics perspective; it makes nearly every aspect of vehicle handling worse.

One practical difficulty of CF for general automotive use is that it's not really repairable.

Of course, modern autobody repair is often about replacing affected panels with pristine replacements (either new or from junk yard cars), as opposed to trying to repair an existing panel. So, in that sense, CF might be a fine choice, as the lack of reparability is in practice a non-issue.

BMW is already gluing cars together -- for almost 10 years they have been building the front clip on certain models out of aluminum, and in effect gluing it to the remainder of the unibody, which is conventional steel.

Also, BMW has been designing recyclability into its cars also for at least 15 years. I seem to recall that the E46 3 series was something like 90% recoverable.

I don't expect they would turn away from their recyclability commitment, so they must have a plausible plan for how they would like to apply it to CF parts.

Re:CF in Cars (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | about 3 months ago | (#46981073)

Carbon fibre can be recycled. [bicycling.com] Like paper, recycled CF is not as strong as virgin, but there are uses for it.

Re:CF in Cars (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 3 months ago | (#46981715)

Cars are one product on the market that is highly recyclable with for profit recycling of almost every part, the recycling is not only easy but common. Most cars are 90+% recyclable with that 10% or so being things like tires and foam for the seats that generally can't be made into new products. This is partly because cars are made of steel and steel is the most easily recycled material we use. Every steel smelter can recycle steel, no special equipment or processes are required.

The problem with carbon fiber is the same problem we face with PVC and most of the plastics (not all, several of the plastics are highly recyclable), they can't be recycled in a viable for profit process. Most are just burned or buried because there is negative value in recycling including some plastics that have no viable process for reuse of the material including some that are toxic to reprocess.

Re:CF in Cars (1)

EvanED (569694) | about 3 months ago | (#46981775)

One thing I'd be curious/worried about is cracking CF vs denting aluminum. In other words, suppose something happens that will cause some cosmetic dents in aluminum skin -- say dimples from hail. (This happened my car.) With an aluminum skin, I don't even need to get it repaired. I'll look silly, but as long as the car is mine that's the only ill effect I'll suffer.

But how much more would it take before that dent became a crack that would need to be repaired because otherwise it would let in rain, or perhaps even compromise the safety of the car in some way? And could it even be repaired as opposed to replacing the whole panel, as you mention?

Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 3 months ago | (#46981127)

Roughly, on the same amount of stored electrical energy.

So carbon fibre body components have a lot of potential to help make EVs range-competitive with fossil fuel cars.

We are definitely within reach of EVs that are practical for nearly every car driver.

1.5x better energy density batteries
1/3 vehicle weight reduction
1/3 price reduction

is all that's really needed from where we are now.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

AndreR (814444) | about 3 months ago | (#46981241)

And half the kinetic energy on collisions as well.

Much less grip on the road as well though, which could be an issue.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981555)

Much less grip on the road as well though, which could be an issue.

least it is easier to push out of a ditch when you put one there ;)

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981619)

So you put your batteries and other weight in the bottom, in the case of an EV.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 months ago | (#46981693)

Less grip doesn't mean much if you don't have to restrain as much energy.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 3 months ago | (#46981733)

Same grip to mass ratio though and for the same speeds, the same grip to momentum ratio and grip to energy ratio.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#46982547)

No, there is still basically the the same coefficient of friction between the tires and pavement, so yes there is less downward force but unless you are experiencing lots of cross winds you will never notice. Given how heavy most vehicles are now days lightening them up would probably be a good thing. Having driven several vehicles that have weighed 2000lbs or less as well as ones weighing over 5000lbs cornering and handling have more to do with suspension and center of gravity than with vehicle weight.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981397)

Only if you ignore aerodynamic drag. Maybe for city driving where you never achieve a high speed you could say this, but for any highway driving, aerodynamic drag exceeds rolling friction and the amount used to get up to speed, even discounting regenerative breaking.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46981529)

Roughly, on the same amount of stored electrical energy.

So carbon fibre body components have a lot of potential to help make EVs range-competitive with fossil fuel cars.

Provided, of course, that the technology is exclusively implemented on EVs.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (3, Interesting)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 3 months ago | (#46981621)

No, half the weight does not mean half the fuel usage. Windage losses do not scale with weight, as passenger size does not scale with vehicle weight. Highway driving in particular is dominated by windage losses (after engine Carnot efficiencies of course). A half weight vehicle will see only modest highway MPG improvements not double, and will not be able to scale the engine size down by fully half either due to the horsepower requirements for reasonable highway performance not scaling down by half. So sadly, a half weight frame and body does not let you continue to scale the rest of the weighty vehicle down by half, which does not result in a doubling of MPG or range.

Re:Half the vehicle weight = twice the range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981795)

Yes, when the engine is built from CF, you will be right.

Aluminum? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#46981321)

Now the only question is how long before carbon fiber vehicle construction becomes as common as aluminum?

And just how mainstream are all aluminum bodied cars? There are several that have hoods and trunks that are. But for the most part only higher end cars make use of it. The Z06 corvette uses an aluminum frame with some carbon fiber body panels. The ZR1 also uses an aluminum frame with more carbon fiber. Nissan NSX used aluminum bodies. As far as I know , those are the cheapest cars you can get that are aluminum. Carbon fiber after market parts are very mainstream already. I see all kinds of cars that people replaced the stock hoods and front, rear bumper covers with carbon fiber.

While not main stream, the Consulier GTP [allpar.com] was the first production carbon fiber car. Actually it was a carbon fiber monocoque body. ANd built in the late 1980's/early 1990's. It was panned as being one the the ugliest cars built. But I would have loved to have owned one.

Re:Aluminum? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46981581)

The new Ford F-150 is aluminum bodied, and the 2003 Jaguar XJ (made by Ford) also had one.

Matter of fact, Ford has been experimenting with aluminum car bodies since the 1990's. [autonews.com]

Re:Aluminum? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#46982575)

The new Ford F-150 is aluminum bodied, and the 2003 Jaguar XJ (made by Ford) also had one.

Matter of fact, Ford has been experimenting with aluminum car bodies since the 1990's. [autonews.com]

I read about the Ford's. I know they've been replacing parts with aluminum for a few years on the F series. But the all aluminum one isn't out quite yet is it? I thought that was for the 2015 model year. The XJ also based at around $70K and went up from there. About the same as a Z06. I think the NSX was around $80K. My point was that all aluminum bodied cars are not that mainstream. While Jaguar makes some beautiful looking cars, you can barely keep them out of the shop mechanically. And lets face it, Corvettes and the NSX are expensive toys. Not mainstream. My entire point was that Carbon fiber is already as mainstream as aluminum in car bodies.

Re:Aluminum? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#46982651)

How far back do you want to go? On higher end sports cars it has been around since the late 50s with things like the BMW 507, MB 300SL (aluminum body was an option), and AC Ace. The light weight aluminum body of AC ace is one of the reasons that Carol Shelby used it as a platform for the Shelby Cobra. There are probably others from the late 50s and early 60s but those are the ones I know of.

Well, it all depends on what you call "mainstream" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46981401)

... carbon fiber bicycles and components have been around for over a decade now. And cheap manufacturing in China/Taiwan (along with new HM/HT CF mats being declassified and brought to the general public) both have increased the amount of carbon fiber bike frames in the last 2-3 years.

What must be brought to attention is that carbon fiber IS NOT recyclable, which is why most bike manufacturers opt for incinerating it. This increases the carbon footprint of any CF-based goods by a huge amount.

I still believe aluminium has much more advantages over CF, and it's fully recyclable.

I would guess so (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 3 months ago | (#46981517)

Since my carbon fiber bike is 12 years old at this point.

Replace aluminum (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 3 months ago | (#46981847)

You can bet on almost all aluminum in cars being replaced by carbon fiber. The one exception being engine parts as that seems to be more difficult. But as far as reclaiming carbon fiber after the cars life ends I suspect that carbon fiber could be crushed and shredded as an additive for concrete or asphalt and thus sequestered over and over again for centuries. Who knows? Maybe we will see 3d printed homes created with shredded carbon fiber put in place by quadcopters or bots.

2025 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46982001)

"Now the only question is how long before carbon fiber vehicle construction becomes as common as aluminum?"

It will become as common in new vehicles as steel is now within eleven years, by 2025. The Obama E.P.A. has mandated a 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025 (link [whitehouse.gov] ). Forecasts now are for a switch away from steel body and gasoline-burning engines in the U.S. to carbon fiber, aluminum, and high-strength steel frames with a mixture of all-electric and diesel propulsion in 2025 to reach the mandate.

There will be some benefits: Prices for this now-exotic technology will drop with mainstream adoption. Vehicle operating costs drop with higher gas mileage. There will be some costs: Vehicle prices will inevitably be higher than now. There is no reason [wikipedia.org] to expect reduced fuel consumption as a result of greater fuel economy and consumption could increase as a result of the mandate.

It is an open question whether the mandate will be a net benefit over the alternative of letting consumers decide. Though it is doubtful that evaluating public policy in terms of "net benefit" is even reasonable because there will be different benefits and costs for different groups, with no objective basis for interpersonal comparisons of wellbeing. For the single guy earning $140K/year the aluminum-frame-carbon-fiber-composite-all-electric-sports-sedan will be super-cool and made more affordable with his government subsidy. Woohoo! If the fuel mileage is twice what he he gets with his 2014 BMW then he can drive twice as much at the same cost. For the single-earner family with a an annual $60,000 income the new family sedan will be no longer affordable. So some will benefit, some will lose, and how that is summed up into net social benefit depends upon who is doing the summing.

As a consequence of low to mid-income buyers being priced out of the new midsize vehicle market expect high growth in sales of rebuilt or remanufactured vehicles of an older vintage, with associated growth in the car parts market. The trend to avoid fuel-economy mandates by commuting in heavy-duty trucks will accelerate.

This could reduce insurance premiums! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46982009)

If a carbon fiber car is involved in a high (enough) speed crash, can it result in the creation of diamonds which could then pay for the cost of the repairs? ;)

Define "Mainstream" (1)

jamesl (106902) | about 3 months ago | (#46982177)

6,000 tons of Carbon Fiber sounds like a lot until you compare it to total US car sales of more than 16 million units. That's about one and a third pound of Carbon Fiber per car.
http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/0... [cnn.com]

Manufactor (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 3 months ago | (#46982447)

Guess what the principle means of making it?
You guessed it oil or coal tar.

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