Cutting the weight of new cars and trucks by up to 750 lbs by the end of the decade is a key component of Ford's strategy to improve fuel efficiency.

"There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles: improving the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reducing the amount of work that powertrains need to do," explains Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president, Research and Innovation.

"Ford is tackling the conversion problem primarily through downsizing engines with EcoBoost® and electrification while mass reduction and improved aerodynamics are keys to reducing the workload."

Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle. However, it's particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.
Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation

Ford is investigating a range of new materials, enhanced design processes and new manufacturing techniques that would enable automotive structures to meet increasingly stringent safety and quality standards while cutting weight.

"Vehicle weight reduction for our customers through intelligent design with a materials focus has been a priority for Dow Automotive Systems," says Florian Schattenmann, director of Research and Development for Dow Automotive Systems.

"This partnership with Ford on carbon fibre composites is a logical next step to progress already achieved through the use of lightweight, high-strength polymers and structural bonding technology."

Automotive composites

Dow Automotive and Ford have signed a joint development agreement that will see researchers from the two companies collaborate in several areas. The development teams will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fibre and develop component manufacturing methods for high-volume automotive applications.

The partnership will seek to combine the best of Ford's capabilities and experience in design, engineering and high-volume vehicle production with Dow Automotive's strengths in R&D, materials science and high-volume polymer processing.

The joint development effort will also leverage work that The Dow Chemical Company has already begun through partnerships with Turkish carbon fibre manufacturer AKSA and the US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

If the joint development effort is successful, carbon fibre components may begin appearing on new Ford vehicles in the latter part of this decade as product development teams work toward meeting new fuel efficiency standards of more than 50 mpg and extending the range of plug-in vehicles.