In this specific context, innovation is a very positive sign. It sparks curiosity and shows (if ever there were a need to) that the sector is dynamic. The builders and Tier One manufacturers marked this dynamism by showcasing composite achievements (among others) wherever possible. As we all know, composites are closely associated with things like performance, strength, design freedom, aesthetic quality, low weight, functional integration, fewer parts to assemble, and corrosion resistance. They are also being associated more and more closely with innovative mobility projects in structural design, overall vehicle design, and the use of new energies. Here is a small selection of the trade show’s exhibits in this field.
Toyota Research Institute presented a Lexus 500 test vehicle with a raised roof that integrates a series of sensors, prefiguring the connected, autonomous car of the future. This part made of composite makes it possible to integrate new functions, which would be difficult to do using steel or aluminium.
Carbon was also used in the passenger compartment and exterior of the LS 500 series model.
On the coupe version of the same model, the carbon roof was remarkable for its perfect finish.
Still at Toyota, after functional integration and design, another composite characteristic was showcased with the hydrogen tanks of the Mirai. Composite is the only acceptable solution for these pressure vessels, which must withstand pressures of 700 bar. A steel solution would be technically possible, but far too heavy for a series car.
Above, the Ala Romeo 4C Spider, with a carbon-fibre SMC monocoque chassis. Below, the 4C Spider also highlighted carbon very visibly in different parts of the body.
Alfa Romeo also exhibited an all-carbon-fibre driveshaft for the new Stelvio SUV. The vehicle is in production and already being marketed in Europe and North America.
Opting for performance and sportiness, the Korean builder Subaru exhibited an all-carbon spoiler.
At Ford, they decided to showcase the Shelby’s all-carbon hubcaps. The main case for these hubcaps is that they contribute to higher accelerating performance and are also stunning.
On the Ford GT, not only the body is almost all-composite. Under-the-hood parts subject to very high temperatures are made of carbon composite. Here, the connection between composite construction and performance is strong.
Chevrolet highlighted the aesthetic aspect of composite on its ZRO model, including carbon air intakes.
The Honda Ridgeline is one of the make’s emblematic models, for which the second generation first came out in 2017. This year, NAIAS visitors could admire the truck’s new SMC composite bed design, in particular for the strength and corrosion resistance properties.
Teijin Group subsidiary Continental Structural Plastics exhibited a scale-1 battery box on its stand, another example of the role of composite materials in the new mobility solutions.
“Hexcel has a dedicated automotive business focused on developing new technologies and supplying a range of composite materials for structural parts, suspension systems, bodywork and interiors. We participated in NAIAS this year to provide automotive engineers with innovative composite solutions to reduce weight and enhance their designs in a cost-competitive way,” said Achim Fischereder, Hexcel Automotive Director of Sales & Marketing.
Companies: JEC Group
Industries: Automotive and Road Transportation