Carbon Fiber Composites could make cars 50% more fuel efficient but the volume must be scaled up 10 to 100 times

Lower Cost Carbon Fiber in High Volumes for 21st-Century Industries — The Obstacles to Getting There (39 pages)

1. Carbon Fiber composites offer the Greatest potential for Mass Reduction (reduce to one third of the weight, which would mean about 45-50% more fuel efficiency)
2. Jobs – A new material area = A new manufacturing infrastructure = and Opportunity for a new US based industry.
3. Reduced foreign oil dependence.
4. Lightweighting a vehicle structure allows earlier introduction of alternative propulsion systems (i.e. batteries, fuel cells, etc.)

Carbon Fiber Industry: Can’t Develop lower cost fiber until there is demand.
Other Industries: Can’t Develop new applications until price is lower.

Size of the carbon fiber industry (70,000 to 90,000 tons per year) cannot support large scale vehicle (10 to 100 million tons per year) or other industry utilization.

Europe has a project to reduce the manufacturing costs of CRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics) components by 90 percent over the five years of the project. They intend to accomplish this primarily through new production methods that are also well-suited for volume production. BMW is now taking a major step forward with its new model I3, which will roll off the assembly line in 2013 with a body almost entirely made of CRP.

Materials that offer moderate less than 50% Mass reduction and could be implemented* in high volume within the next 5-10 years:

Advanced High Strength Steels
Glass Fiber Composites (including SMC)

They require improvements in properties, manufacturing methods, predictive models, joining techniques and some property refinement

Materials that offer the largest more than 50% Mass reduction have the largest barriers to be overcome and can be implemented** in high volume in 10 or more years:
Carbon Fiber Composites
Metal Matrix Composites

They require either major cost reductions, domestic market development and/or alloy development along with development in manufacturing methods, joining techniques and predictive models.

ORNL Carbon Fiber R and D Update (23 pages)

Light weight carbon fiber materials review in 2011

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