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by Tim Beissmann

Ford has become the latest major manufacturer to strike a partnership with a technology company to research the use of carbonfibre products in its vehicles.

The deal with Dow Automotive Systems is the second part of Ford’s two-pronged efforts to reduce its fleet’s energy use, complementing its ‘EcoBoost’ engine downsizing and efficiency strategy.

Ford expects the use of carbonfibre components to play a significant role in its ambition to reduce the weight of its new vehicles by up to 750 pounds (340kg) by 2020. It is currently investigating a number of new materials, design processes and manufacturing techniques that will satisfy rising quality and safety standards while cutting weight.

The partnership will look to combine Ford’s design, engineering and high-volume vehicle production experience with Dow Automotive’s strengths in research and development, materials science and high-volume polymer processing.

If the partnership is successful, Ford says carbonfibre components could appear in its mass-produced vehicles before the end of the decade as it targets further efficiency gains, emission reductions and extended range for its plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The move follows commitments from a number of other global manufacturers to invest in carbonfibre technology as a weight-saving strategy. In November, BMW strengthened its partnership with carbonfibre manufacturer SGL Group ahead of the launch of the electric and plug-in hybrid i3 and i8 models, which will use a high proportion of the high-strength, lightweight material in their construction.

Mercedes-Benz has a similar partnership with Japanese carbonfibre maker Toray, while Audi is also tied to a deal with fellow German manufacturer Voith.