Ford and Magna team up on prototype carbon fiber subframe

Magna International carbon fiber subframe for Ford

Magna International carbon fiber subframe for Ford

Carbon fiber is becoming more commonplace than ever, and in the name of weight savings, the material may be making its way into more and more components in more and more common cars.

One of those components is future Ford subframes.

A collaborative effort between Ford and the German automotive supplier Magna Inernational has yielded a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe, which reduces mass by 34 percent compared to an equivalent steel subframe. And at a time when lightweighting is becoming a key engineering solution, this prototype presents itself as a potentially groundbreaking way to design more efficient vehicles.

Magna and Ford looked at the entire subframe assembly and were able to identify 45 steel parts as places to reduce mass. With this prototype subframe, the 45 parts were replaced with just two molded and four metallic parts, making for an 87 percent reduction in the number of parts used.

The subframe is an integral part of the vehicle, giving the suspension, wheels, and engine a home while also providing the basis of a vehicle’s crash worthiness. And, in that regard, the prototype design has passed all performance requirements based on a computer-aided engineering analysis.

Magna will carry out further testing in which corrosion, chipping, and bolt load retention will be evaluated. Following that phase, the team will develop a design, manufacturing, and assembly process to make the prototype a reality.

Magna has already begun producing the prototype subframes for its own testing and announced Ford will carry out its own component and vehicle-level testing, too.

No final decision has been made that this will indeed be a commonly used Ford component in the near future. We also don’t know what vehicles it might be used in or when, but the fact that both companies are moving forward with testing and develop indicates promise.

As carbon fiber becomes less expensive, expect the material to begin showing up in more places as it transitions from the stuff of supercars, to the material of choice for your next commuter car.

–Sean Szymkowski

Check Also

2019 Chevrolet Silverado: lighter, stronger, and smarter

It was a helicopter that delivered our first look at the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, but General Motors' best-selling pickup was really delivered on the wind of change. The new Chevy Silverado pickup broke cover Saturday night ahead of the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and gave us our first in-depth look at the next-generation...

GM’s latest self-driving car has no steering wheel or pedals

General Motors on Friday revealed a self-driving car devoid of a steering wheel and pedals. Called the Cruise AV (Autonomous Vehicle), the car is based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV and will hit the road as early as 2019, assuming GM receives regulatory approval. The automaker is seeking approval from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to...