3 Things for Students in Auto Body Repair Courses to Know About New Developments in Carbon Fibre
In 1981, the McLaren MP4/1 Formula One race car became the first motor vehicle to use a carbon fibre chassis. Ever since then, automotive enthusiasts have obsessed over this lightweight and extra-strong material. However, beyond race cars and supercars, carbon fibre is still extremely rare in mass market vehicles.
That has some wondering if carbon fibre in the auto industry has a future, and, if so, whether it will ever become practical for mainstream vehicles. Here’s why carbon fibre enthusiasts insist that this unique material is still poised to revolutionize the auto industry.
1. Carbon Fibre Is Extremely Expensive and Impractical for Most Mainstream Cars
First, let’s take a look at why some analysts say that carbon fibre’s days in the automotive industry are numbered, at least beyond race cars and supercars. Carbon fibre consists of strands of carbon woven into a material that is 10 times stronger than steel and weighs much less. To make it, however, requires advanced manufacturing processes, which means that it costs about 10 times more than steel. That high cost is simply too much for most automakers looking to make an affordable mass market vehicle.
Furthermore, other industries arguably get far more benefit from carbon fibre. Namely, the lightweight and extra-strong character of carbon fibre makes it extremely useful in aviation. In fact, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is partly made out of carbon fibre, which allows it to fly further using less fuel. That increased demand, however, only drives up the cost of carbon fibre further, thus making it even more expensive for automakers.
2. But Students in Auto Body Schools Shouldn’t Dismiss Carbon Fibre Just Yet
Despite those challenges, automakers are still investing heavily in carbon fibre technology, which suggests that they believe there’s a future for this powerful material. The fact that airplane manufacturers use carbon fibre has actually helped make carbon fibre more practical for carmakers in some ways. That’s because airplane makers and car manufacturers can share the same carbon fibre research and manufacturing facilities. Indeed, Boeing shares carbon fibre research facilities with both BMW and Lamborghini. And the U.S. government’s famed Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working on creating a low-cost carbon fibre that would make it far more practical for mass market products.
3. You Could See Carbon Fibre EVs After Your Auto Body Repair Courses
Another reason that students in auto body schools may see more rather than less carbon fibre in vehicles in the future is because of ongoing concerns over climate change. To combat climate change, automakers have to comply with ever stricter fuel efficiency standards. Since lightweight cars are more fuel efficient, automakers are constantly looking to shave weight off of their vehicles, including by using carbon fibre.
And one especially exciting way that you may encounter carbon fibre after your auto repair courses is in the form of electric vehicles. One of the limitations of current electric vehicle technology is that the batteries used to store energy tend to be extremely large and very heavy. That means that most electric vehicles have a relatively short range. However, carbon fibre could solve this problem. Researchers are working on a carbon fibre vehicle body that also acts as a giant battery. As a result, the carbon fibre body would reduce the weight of the vehicle dramatically, while also providing greater charge and range.
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