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Carbon Fiber's Future in the Automotive Industry

The United Kingdom announced plans earlier this year to ban the use of gasoline and diesel engines by 2040. Germany is considering banning the diesel engine in major metro areas in the near future. Even carmakers like BMW have hinted that they will be focusing exclusively on electric vehicles within the next decade. Carbon fiber tube, carbon sheets, and other composite materials are at the center of it all.

Composite materials like those we manufacture could end up being the key to producing electric vehicles with extensive range. A material like our carbon fiber tube, for example, offers the kind of structural integrity designers need to create safe vehicles and still keep weight in check. And anyone who knows anything about electric vehicles knows how important weight is.

Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Carbon Fiber Driveshaft

Reducing weight is key to designing an efficient electric vehicle. Here's the problem: the batteries necessary to give an electric vehicle considerable range are heavy. Maximizing efficiency requires reducing the weight of the rest of the vehicle to make up for the excess weight of the batteries. That's where materials like carbon fiber tube come into play

Already Proof of Concept

The idea of using carbon fiber materials in automotive manufacturing was thought up years ago. Both manufacturers and hobbyists are now hard at work producing their own proof of concept designs. And they are doing some pretty incredible things. For example, BGR's Mike Wehner wrote a September 10 piece about an orthopedist who built his own electric motorcycle that features carbon fiber tube.

exodyne-electric-motorcycle-designboom02 Image Source: silodrome

The motorcycle, dubbed the ExoDyne, is an engineering marvel. The body is essentially a long, thin battery pack with a carbon fiber frame to which the seat is attached. A lightweight front axle and rear mount hold the wheels while a small electric engine sits just below the seat. Though the ExoDyne only has a range of about 20 miles at this point, it can go up to 60 mph.

The carbon fiber tube that makes up the rider's portion of the body is really what makes this bike so remarkable. The frame is bolted to the top of the battery housing in just four places. Because the tube is so rigid, it doesn't require any support underneath to safely hold the rider. It can handle the rider's entire weight in a very small package that looks like it is suspended in thin air.

Others Doing Similar Things

The ExoDyne is an engineering masterpiece built by a hobbyist with a passion for electric vehicles. But the bike's owner is not alone. A number of commercial enterprises have been looking at carbon fiber tube for quite some time now. You might say that carbon fiber is at the very core of future automotive design.

A carbon fiber material is a synthetic material composed mainly of carbon atoms arranged in specific ways. The advantages of carbon fibers are numerous: they are very stiff, they exhibit a high tensile strength, they are highly resistant to chemicals and temperatures, and they don't weigh much.

Carbon fiber's unique characteristics allow us to use the material to create anything from sheets to tubes to panels. All we have to do is bind the fibers together with other composite materials in the shape and size we want. For materials like carbon fiber tube, we mold the fibers and composite materials into tubes of varying shapes and sizes.

As the world continues pursuing a completely electric vehicle, carbon fiber composites will play a significant role. It is yet another way carbon fiber is helping to make the world a better place.