Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Carbon Fiber Vs Powertrain Improvements

While reading an article on Reinforced Plastics by Mike and Pam Brady. It was a report from the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Composites Conference and Exposition (ACCE) held in suburban Detroit, Michigan, USA, on 15-16 September 2009.

The most interesting thing to me was the question of Carbon Fiber Vs Powertrain Improvements..

From the piece:
Kalyan Sehanobish, Dow Chemical, began with a tough assessment. He felt that powertrain changes were more effective than weight reduction. Further, the price of gasoline could well drop which will reverse the trend toward smaller cars.

Further down the article:
Sehanovish mentioned the disadvantages of using carbon composites: price and cycle time; with the advantages being lightweight, crashworthiness and styling ease. He estimated that in automotive, one pound (1 lb) in mass reduction is worth about US$3, in airplanes $250, and in spaceships $2500.

While he pointed out that vehicles were going to get lighter, changing the powertrains would result in much greater fuel efficiency gains. He suggested diesels, then hybrids, and then hybrid/diesels would obtain the biggest fuel economy advantages.

The three ways to get better fuel economy were reduced:

* tyre resistance;
* aerodynamic drag (during highway modes);
* and inertia (during city driving).

He predicted that by 2030 established goals will be achieved: the carbon fibres will be $4-5/lb in ample supply with a 2-4 minute cycle time. Aluminium and steel have almost reached their limit of physics while carbon fibre composites have much room for improvement in their future.

Your thoughts?