Carbon fiber contributes significantly not only to performance improvement of cars, but also to protecting the driver.
In auto mobile applications, utilization of CFRP began in racing cars. CFRP allows for further weight reduction, and it is also essential in ensuring the driver's safety as the high-strength, high-rigidity material for the monocock frame. F1 racing cars use CFRP for all structural members other than the monocock frame, and the driver is protected not only by the high-speed stability of these CFRP members, but also by the high crash energy absorptivity of CFRP.
The high performance of CFRP proven on racing cars was incorporated into luxury cars, and CFRP is increasingly adopted by European cars, etc. In Japan, we produce hoods, spoilers, etc., for passenger cars and CFRP is also found in not only structural members, but also outer panel members requiring high esthetic performance. CFRP is also fast making its way into the field of propeller shafts manufactured by the filament winding method, to help reduce weight, but also improve safety through improved impact absorption. Toray's propeller shafts are already adopted to around 1 million vehicles.
As use of carbon fiber to automobile applications makes rapid progress, Toray is actively developing forming technology to support and accelerate this trend.
Among automobile applications, tires with carbon fiber sidewalls to improve cornering stability are already available for general passenger cars in the U.S., and motorcycles adopting a carbon-fiber reinforced rubber belt instead of a metal chain are also on the market.
As explained above, carbon fiber is used more in various members of automobiles including motorcycles, and this growth trend will likely accelerate as development continues not only in the field of conventional mainstream composite materials based on thermosetting resin, but also in the field of composite materials based on thermoplastic resin which is excellent in recycling.