Carbon Fiber’s Future in Cars

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/automobiles/carbon-fiber-light-and-strong-arrives-where-its-most-needed.html?_r=0

Until very recently, carbon fiber has been a material reserved for military vehicles, sporting equipment, and hypercars like Koenigsegg. BMW aims to change that. Having recently partnered with SGL, a carbon fiber manufacturer, BMW has plans to open their own plant to produce this strong, light material in the state of Washington. With a move that hearkens back to the days when Ford Motor Company made their own steel, BMW estimates they will be able to acquire carbon fiber at a third of the market price.

Carbon fiber is a material made up of a variety of tiny threads pressed together and heated. It is incredibly sturdy and resilient, and at the same time weighs half as much as steel. The material is expected to become the car material of the future. Some have postulated that it will have a drastic effect on the insurance world, as collisions will be less likely to even damage cars as technology progresses.

BMW will be releasing the i3, an electric vehicle, and the i8, a hybrid, as the first widely available almost fully carbon fiber car. The i3 is predicted to have a new price of $33,000. This marks the first time carbon fiber can be within the price range of middle class families. Not only that, the lost weight on the i3 increases its effective range to 100 miles. The i3 will lose 550 pounds from its overall weight.

As carbon fiber advances it will, hopefully, become cheaper to produce. While it may be the single best material to make cars out of, it is costly and time consuming to make. BMW has found a way to lower that cost and this may mark the beginning of a new era in car manufacturing. This recent progress bodes well for the future of this wonder material in the automobile world.

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