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Will New Mileage Rules Force Shift from Steel to Carbon Fiber?

Survey says industry leaders expect more changes in the basic automotive building blocks.

by on Aug.02, 2011

Lamborghini is making "heavy" use of lightweight carbon fiber for the new Aventador super car.

With only minor exception, today’s cars are made out of the same building blocks as Henry Ford’s Model T.  Sure, the wooden floor boards are gone and there’s a lot more plastic – with a bit of aluminum and magnesium thrown in — but today’s cars continue to rely on steel, glass and rubber for the majority of their mass.  And mass is going to be one of the biggest enemies as the industry aims to meet the new federal fuel economy standards.

Getting to 54.5 mpg will require major changes in every aspect of automotive design, industry leaders stress, with a heavy emphasis on what’s under the hood.  But a new study finds that the mileage mandates will likely trigger a material revolution, as well.

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“Clearly CAFE regulations have confronted the industry, but they’ve also driven focus around technology needs, material demands and cost issues,” said David Glasscock, global automotive technology director for DuPont Automotive, which commissioned the new study.