Ford, Dow to Advance Research on Carbon Fiber for Automobiles

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Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. and a Dow Chemical Co. joint venture have signed an agreement to advance research on high-volume, cost efficient, and automotive-grade carbon fiber. By using more carbon fiber, automakers can reduce vehicle weight to boost fuel efficiency and enhance performance.

Ford has partnered with DowAksa, a joint venture between Aksa, a provider of acrylic fiber, and Midland-based Dow, a developer of specialty chemicals, advanced materials, and plastics. The 50/50 joint venture will combine DowAksa’s carbon fiber conversion production capabilities with Ford’s experience with high-volume manufacturing and design. The companies will work together to develop carbon fiber components that are lighter than steel but also meet strength requirements.

“The goal of our work here fits within the company’s Blueprint for Sustainability, where future Ford vehicles will be lighter with optimized performance that would help consumers further improve fuel economy and reduce emissions,” says Mike Whitens, director of vehicle enterprise sciences for Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

According to USA Today, replacing steel components with carbon fiber would reduce the weight of most cars by about 60 percent. A few cars on the market do use carbon fiber, such as the Ford GT and the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. However, carbon fiber is much more expensive than steel.

The venture will be a part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation and the the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a consortium of U.S. research institutes announced by President Obama in January.

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