BOSTON—Formerly only used in motorsports applications, carbon fibre is poised for widespread adoption in the auto sector by 2025, according to a report from Lux Research, Inc.
The report, Scaling Up Carbon Fiber: Roadmap to Automotive Adoption, claims carbon fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRPs) are on the verge of garnering widespread adoption for automotive lightweighting over the next decade, driven largely by faster-than-expected technology development.
“Current trends strongly indicate significant mainstream automotive adoption of CFRPs in the mid-2020s, and companies throughout the value chain must position themselves to take advantage of the coming shifts,” report author Anthony Vicari said in a statement from Lux Research.
“However, long-term mega-trends towards urbanization, connectivity and automation suggest that there could be a limited time window beyond that for penetrating the automotive space.”
Advances already underway in fibre, resin and composite part production will lead to a US$6-billion market for automotive CFRPs in 2020, according to the research firm—more than double its earlier projection.
Lux Research notes that even those projections are “dwarfed by the full potential for CFRPs” in the automotive industry if they can become affordable enough for use in mainstream vehicles.
Carbon fibre itself, which represents just 22 per cent of a what goes into a CFRP part, costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of US$28/kg.
More needs to be done to reduce capital, labour, energy, resin and processing costs, which together make up the remaining 78 per cent of CFRP production.
“CFRP developers will have to continue the pace of innovation to overcome the high cost that has so far limited the material to less price-sensitive markets like aerospace and sporting goods,” Vicari said.
According to the report, growing partnerships in the auto sector, combined with an increase in CFRP-related patent activity, will drive adoption by the mid-2020s.
Lux Research said the number of direct partnerships between automakers or Tier-1 automotive suppliers and carbon fibre players has nearly doubled to 11 since 2012, while a “major upturn” in CFRP patent activity in 2007 should lead to large-scale mainstream automotive use within the next 10 years.