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Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream? 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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Is Carbon Fiber Going Mainstream?

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  • Recycling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:16PM (#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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:27PM (#46980799)

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

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @02:04PM (#46981301) Homepage

    Once I learned about carbon fiber thermoplastics [], 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 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.

  • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @02:22PM (#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.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger