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Inside Koenigsegg Talks About Carbon Fiber: Video 9
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Carbon Fiber, Drive, Koenigsegg, Koenigsegg Agera R, Kurt, video on 01 9th, 2013

In case you missed last week’s teaser, “Inside Koenigsegg” is a nine part series, airing on Drive and hosted by the company’s founder, Christian Von Koenigsegg. The videos promise to give a look behind the scenes at one of the world’s premier supercar builders, but will also explain how technology developed for the Agera R trickles down to more common uses.

Carbon fiber is used extensively throughout the Agera R, as it’s lightweight, strong and (important for chassis development) extremely rigid. Koenigsegg claims that his cars are the most carbon fiber-intensive production vehicles built today, as over 400 parts are built using the exotic and expensive material.

Creating a component from carbon fiber sheeting is a labor-intensive process involving the layering of carbon fiber sheets inside a mold along with various films and materials meant to evenly distribute pressure or vacuum. Once the part is layered up, heat and pressure (or vacuum) are used to consolidate the layers, and Koenigsegg describes the process as a “black art.” His company has been perfecting it since 1994, so we’d say that’s an educated opinion.

When properly molded, carbon fiber parts offer a strength to weight ration like few other materials on the planet. Make an error in the manufacturing process (unlikely, given Koenigsegg’s experience) and the part can be weak and brittle, failing at the worst possible time. In other words, there’s little margin for error.

Over the next few years, you can expect to see carbon fiber parts begin to make their way into more and more production cars. Until someone figures out a way to automate the production process, however, the material isn’t likely to be inexpensive to produce.

After The Lexus LFA, Toyota Ponders What’s Next For Carbon Fiber 7
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Carbon Fiber, Kurt, LEXUS, Lexus LFA, TOYOTA on 01 7th, 2013

The Lexus LFA – image: Lexus

The last Lexus LFA to ever be built rolled off the assembly line on December 14, 2012. Any hope for a successor to Lexus’ range-topping supercar has been dashed (for now anyway), thanks to the weak global economy coupled with a strong Japanese yen. For Lexus’ parent, Toyota, that raises one glaring question: what will the automaker do with it’s significant investment in carbon fiber manufacturing, as required to build the Lexus LFA.

As Automotive News (subscription required) explains, the short answer is that Toyota will eventually begin using carbon fiber components in other vehicles. As for the “what” and the “when,” there are no easy answers to that question. One of the goals behind Toyota’s massive investment in carbon fiber manufacturing was supposed to be streamlining and economizing the process. After all, Toyota was legendary in the automotive world for its ability to find more efficient and less expensive ways to manufacture product.

That’s simply not the case with traditional carbon fiber, which remains costly and labor-intensive to produce. In the case of the Lexus LFA, the car’s carbon fiber components required nearly two weeks per car to manufacture; when you’re charging $375,000 per example, such attention to detail isn’t an issue. For a mainstream automobile, built to sell at a particular price point, such a production time (and cost) is unacceptable.

To make matters worse for Toyota, the automaker even spins its own carbon fiber thread instead of relying on product from external vendors. That’s another manufacturing concern that Toyota will now need to make profitable, which is difficult in a market already saturated with suppliers. Japan’s carbon fiber manufacturers currently produce some 70 percent of the world’s supply, meaning that Toyota must continue to find ways to lower cost if it’s to be successful.

We may still be years (or even decades) away from carbon fiber becoming a mainstream material in mass-market automobiles, but this much is certain: when it happens, manufacturers like Toyota will likely be leading the revolution.

GM And Teijin Hope To Bring Carbon Fiber To The Masses 9
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Carbon Fiber, GM, Kurt, News on 12 9th, 2011

Carbon fiber fabric. Image: Erik Charlton

Carbon fiber is incredibly light, incredibly strong and also incredibly expensive. The materials used to make carbon fiber components aren’t particularly rare or pricey, but the conventional manufacturing process is labor intensive, requiring specialized industrial equipment to produce light but strong parts. There have been recent breakthroughs in material science, such as the carbon composites developed between Boeing, the University of Washington and Lamborghini, but these are still priced beyond practical implementation in the average family sedan.

That may change in the coming years. General Motors has announced a partnership with a Japanese company, Teijin, who has already developed an advanced, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. As Motor Authority explains, the two companies will focus their efforts on developing both new carbon composites and new manufacturing processes to lower the cost of finished components. To achieve this goal, Teijin will set up a Composites Application Center in the United States in early 2012.

The company’s existing technology allows production of carbon-fiber-reinforced components in minutes, rather than the hours it typically takes to produce parts using carbon fiber cloth and resin. By making production more cost-effective, GM and Teijin hope to be able to introduce carbon fiber components into mainstream GM products in the coming years.

Image credit: Erik Charlton, Creative Commons 2.0

RENNtech C74 Konzept Shown; Based on Mercedes C63 AMG 20
Posted by Alex Ion in Automotive News, C74 Konzept, Carbon Fiber, Concept car news, ECU, Mercedes C63 AMG, Nitto INVO, Renntech, v8 on 10 20th, 2010

RENNtech has introduced their C74 Konzept based on the Mercedes C63 AMG. The C74 Konzept includes a widebody kit, rear spoiler, front splitter, rear diffuser (all made from carbon fiber) and the set of Nitto INVO performance tires which will be fitted upon three-piece forged aluminum wheels.

It outfits the 6.2-liter V8 engine with a revised ECU, a modified air intake (with high-flow air filters), an upgraded camshaft, and new cylinder heads. These modifications under the hood will complement the V8 in producing a power output of 605 hp (451 kW / 613 PS) and 555 lb-ft (752 Nm) of torque. It can speed up the car to cover a quarter mile by126 mph (203 km/h) in 11.4 seconds. The top-speed is claimed to be an impressive 204 mph (328 km/h).

The tuners will be installing an adjustable sports suspension, a limited slip rear differential, high performance brakes, and carbon fiber stabilizer bars to make the car to remain the same as planted. The company has made the package available for orders at price tag starting from $11,950 (€8,580).

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(Via WCF)

Lamborghini’s Latest Teaser is Out – Plus a Manifesto 16
Posted by Alex Ion in Automotive News, Carbon Fiber, CO2 emissions, Lamborghini, Manifesto, Super car news, Supersportscars on 09 16th, 2010

Lamborghini has released their ‘Manifesto for future Supersportscars’ along with a new teaser photo of their new vehicle, which still remains shrouded in mystery.

What has been revealed  may be totally unacceptable to supercar buffs,  that power output will not be increased and top speed is no longer a priority. From a practical viewpoint, there’s no doubt that this is a good decision –   exceeding 300 km/h (186 mph), even at a racetrack is not really done. Also, with the CO2 emission regulations that are now in place, tremendous horsepower and top speeds are no longer encouraged.

Naturally, Lamborghini would have turned to making the experience of driving the vehicle a superior one through better handling, acceleration, and effective power to weight ratio. And although this approach is not new in the industry, it a radical shift for Lamborghini, whose manifesto says that the magic word is ‘Carbon fiber.’

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Sources at the company say that they are incorporating several technologies which will set them in the top spot as far as low-volume production is concerned. The teaser photo shows a carbon fiber cover or panel on what seems like a V10 engine. For more concrete information, everyone waits impatiently for the next teaser photo.