If the recent investment of $100 million by BMW to build a carbon fiber factory in Washington State is any indication, automakers will be introducing this exotic material into more and more mass-production vehicles in the future.
Carbon fiber is attractive to carmakers because of the dramatic fuel savings it can offer. According to a recent article in CNNMoney.com, carbon fiber is two-thirds the weight of steel yet five times stronger. Swapping carbon fiber for steel in a car would reduce a vehicle’s weight by hundreds of pounds.
According to the article, there is a downside to carbon fiber from a manufacturer’s standpoint: the material is expensive, the construction process is labor-intensive and carbon fibers can’t be recycled because carbon composites don’t corrode.
Experts expect other automakers to follow BMW’s lead.