The carbonfibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) Ford Focus bonnet, which is 50 per cent lighter than the standard steel part, is constructed from the super-strong, super-light material more often associated with high-end performance cars from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini as well as top-level racing cars.
The advantages of carbonfibre – it’s up to five times as strong as steel, twice as stiff, and one-third the weight – are key to Ford’s plans to drop a total of 340kg out of the Ford Focus by the end of the decade.
The lightweight bonnet’s innovative construction, which sees a special foam core sandwiched between two layers of CFRP, has meant despite its structural attributes it performed well in pedestrian protection head-impact tests.
While the development of the technology is part of an on-going research project involving engineers from the Ford European Research Centre and materials experts from the German state-funded Hightech.NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) project, Ford says production time for each individual carbonfibre bonnet is already fast enough to be employed on a production line, taking just 15 minutes to manufacture.
Ford European Research Centre advanced materials and processes research engineer Inga Wehmeyer says Ford is working towards a solution that will support the cost effective manufacturing of carbonfibre components.
“Reducing a vehicle’s weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption, but a process for fast and affordable production of carbonfibre automotive parts in large numbers has never been available,” Wehmeyer said.
Ford says the techniques developed for the prototype Focus bonnet will not find their way into production in the near future but could be transferred to higher volume applications at a later date.