By on December 12, 2012

BMW and Boeing will share know-how about making carbon fiber. BMW says it signed a collaboration agreement “to participate in joint research for carbon fiber recycling as well as share manufacturing knowledge and explore automation opportunities.”

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is 50 percent made of carbon fiber material. With the release of the BMW i3 in late 2013, followed later by the BMW i8, the BMW Group will bring two vehicles with a carbon passenger cell onto the market. BMW is heavily invested in industry leader SGL.

Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel, a key factor to help cut vehicle weight and fuel consumption. CFRP has an unsurpassed strength-to-stiffness-to-weight ratio. CFRP also is extremely expensive, mainly due to its long cycle time. A press can crank out metal car parts in mere seconds, a CFRP part can take many hours to cure. Making CFRP affordable and suitable for mass production is the big challenge.

CFRP technology also is rumored to be part of BMW’s alliance with Toyota. Toyota has developed significant carbon fiber expertise in-house. The Lexus LFA supercar is made from 65 percent carbon fiber and 35 percent aluminum. However, the buzzle at LFA Works is dying down, with the last LFAs leaving the factory as we write this. From what we are hearing, there is no follow-up work in the LFA Works just yet.

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16 Comments on “BMW And Boeing In Carbon Fiber Alliance...”

  • avatar

    We will see. Seems like the move to make will be to develop a faster curing epoxy that sacrifices a little strength. Or just redevelop the manufacturing process to accomodate for that curing time. What’s the big deal with a couple of hours? Most cars are in inventory for a couple of DAYS.

    • 0 avatar

      if it takes long time to cure that means the assembling time will be much longer,
      if the allotted time for each steel car held up in body shop is 3 days then it will take 9 days to cure the carbon fibre body that means your shop apace will be tied up much longer, that means your factory floor space will have to be 3 times the current space or be making 30 C F cars instead of 90 regular steel body cars in a given specific time.

      for average cars it doesnt make sense to be built in CF, as for a jet airliner it does pay off, reason is costs less to fly, burn lesser fuel, save weight.
      The extra expenses probably captured in a few runs.
      For airlines even small 0.5% savings of fuel will transform to tons of $.
      To us joe public whether a car run 30 mpg or 25 is not going to break our bank, unless we drive 1000 miles a week then we feel the differences.

      The costs of a reg car say 30 grand the CF car will be 90gs.
      Thats why the LFA is 650 grand, if it were a steel body would probably be 150 – 200grand.

      or look at the real benefit of buying a reg merc S Klasse as compare to a Maybach?
      if it had worked Merc would have reduce the capacity of the S Klasse and built more Maybachs!

      This is similar to the benefits to pedestrians as to developing skills in circus high
      wire walking act. Their acrobatic shoes would probably last a week for average daily pedestrian walk.
      Maybe helpful when a Police ask u to perform straight line walking sobriety test.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “CFRP has an unsurpassed strength-to-stiffness-to-weight ratio.”

    What are you talking about?

    “Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel”

    Nonsense – as the old adage goes, a pound of lead weighs the same as a pound of feathers. Perhaps if you rephrase it with a passing nod to specific modulus it might make more sense.

    • 0 avatar

      I recommend a thorough reading of TTAC’s commenting guidelines at

      • 0 avatar

        TTAC needs to have an engineering editor or the very least a proof reader for technical articles. (Recall also the short lived suspension series that was poorly presented.)

        Either that or stick to politics and stay away from technical posts.

      • 0 avatar

        How about just fixing the article instead of threatening your readers.

        Strength-to-stiffness-to-weight ratio is nonsensical. You mean strength to weight and stiffness to weight. Also this needs a huge caveat, because it is only true in longitudinal direction of the carbon fiber weave. When you load carbon fiber in the transverse direction, all you get is the strength of the epoxy. In that case, wood in the grain direction is stronger and less dense than CFRP.

        Your second comment needs to be changed to say that CFRP is less dense than Al and steel.

        Third, your assertion that the strength to weight and stiffness to weight of CFRP is unsurpassed is wrong. Many ceramics exceed composites in both categories.

    • 0 avatar

      I was not sure how to parse “strength-to-stiffness-to-weight ratio”. Does it mean strength-to-weight ratio and strength-to-stiffness ratio as well as stiffness-to-weight ratio?

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “The Lexus LFA supercar is made from 65 percent carbon fiber and 35 percent aluminum.”

    So there’s no rubber, steel, plastic or cloth anywhere on the car?

  • avatar

    “Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel”

    Typical density of aluminum is 65% less than typical steel density. Typical density of CFRP is 30% less than aluminum and 75% less than steel. Now if you could make car bodies out of aerogels, you’d be all set because that stuff is 99.975% less dense than steel. That’s the gotcha with comparing density directly. What you need is a comparison of the overall weight of structures made of different materials that accomplish the same goals for stiffness and strength (and for car bodies, I guess crushability and a bunch of other things too). I’d also guess that we still know more about how to get steel or aluminum to do what we want than CFRP so there is room for improvement.

  • avatar

    Best and brightest: is the future of cars – especially in markets with high gas prices, such as Western Europe – in carbon fiber vehicles?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      In short, no. It’s still expensive and it’s main use is race cars and enough money to buy a nice house in most places supercars. I have very limited knowledge on what race announcers mean when they say there are possible carbon fiber shards on the race track after a racecar wrecks. It doesn’t sound good to me. We’ll probably see alumin(i)um used 1st.

  • avatar

    i guess the CF have improved greatly, 20 some yrs ago those CF built front fork for racing bikes ( made by Look, that was cutting edge then ) , they suffer breakage so rendered these racing bikes pretty unsafe!

    Or soon as the Ruskies stop doing the arms, planes race with USA, the price & demand of Titanium greatly dropped, so as Ti MTB and road bikes prices do dropped considerably.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cannondale Scalpel 29er that I just bought has a carbon frame, fork, crankset, seatpost, bars, and even the brake/shifter levers and the swingarm on the rear derailleur. And this is a mountain bike. Carbon has definitely come a long way. 23lbs w/ 29″ wheels, 100mm front and rear travel. I feel like superman when I’m riding that thing.

  • avatar

    Car and Driver is reporting the next Corvette will use CRF panels to stiffen its aluminum structural tub. Structural carbon fiber on a $60k car! (They’re also promising 450 hp and 3,000 curb weight. And 30 mpg. Yowza, ain’t technolgy fun?)

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