Monday, August 11, 2008

New Materials to Make Cars More Durable, Efficient

Speaking of automotive technology, Brian Wang over at Next Big Future has an article about advances in automotive materials and how they could impact such things as vehicle durability and efficiency.

A new process for working with titanium (which I blogged about back in May) could make it more cost-effective for manufacturers to make their parts out of the durable metal rather than using aluminum. Parts such as brake rotors made out of titanium should last longer than rotors made from aluminum, improving the durability of a vehicle.

Brian also talks about increases in production volumes of carbon fiber and its potential for use in automobiles. Carbon fiber is lighter than steel and ten times as strong as iron. If most of the steel in an auto is replaced with carbon fiber, the vehicle could be made to weigh 40 percent less. Doing so could improve fuel efficiency (and reduce carbon emissions) by as much as 30 percent.

But carbon fiber is currently vastly more expensive than steel and even aluminum, so it has not come into widespread use for auto bodies. That may be changing with the increased production, which will push down prices due to economies of scale, at the same time that prices of iron, steel, and aluminum have been rising.

Green Car Congress recently reported that Toray Industries has partnered with Nissan and Honda to develop a new carbon fiber material for use in auto bodies.

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