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CARBON MOVES MAINSTREAM CARBON FIBER TECHNOLOGY IS FUELING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CARS T BY SCOTT SOWERS, AIADA Contributing Editor here’s a new lightweight, space-age material moving into the mainstream market that is changing the way cars are designed, built, and marketed. Everybody knows about carbon fiber, and even though you might think it was invented by NASA, it’s actually been around since Thomas Edison carbonized cotton threads by baking them and then using them as filaments for his light bulb experiments. Weaving carbonized threads into fabric and then combining them with a plastic resin produces carbon fiber reinforced polymer (plas- tic)—also known as CFRP. It was put to widespread use in the aero- space industry and eventually found its way into the car business via the Formula One racing circuit. Racecars to Mainstream From racecars, CFRP made its way to super cars and now can be found everywhere. “It is a game changing material, first and foremost, because of its strength to weight ratio,” says Jose Guerrero, E-mobility Project and Launch Manager at BMW of North America. “It’s 50 per- cent lighter than steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum.” BMW has invested in CFRP in a big way by combining it with the i8, its $135,000 hybrid, luxury sports car, and the i3, its more acces- sible five-door, electric vehicle. Prices for the i3 start in the low 40s, which has a range of 81 miles per charge. The EV will do 0–60 in 6.5 electric seconds. continued on page 18 Above: BMW has invested in CFRP in big ways, incorporating it into its i8 hybrid, luxury sports car. SUMMER 2015 | AutoDealer 17