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MEGATRENDS USA: Carbon composites becoming competitive, cost-effective

Automotive Megatrends USA: Ravi Kumar, Senior Principal and Head of Advanced Engineering Group, Infosys, says that carbon composites are becoming a more competitive material for lightweighting processes

Speaking during the Vehicle Lightweighting stream at Automotive Megatrends USA, organised and hosted by Automotive World, Ravi Kumar, Senior Principal and Head of Advanced Engineering Group at Infosys, commented that carbon composites are becoming more competitive and cost-effective.

Costs falling

Infosys’ Kumar says that carbon composites are becoming more competitive and cost-effective in vehicle lightweighting

Kumar believes that one of the key factors in lightweighting will be the continued development of new technologies, and observes that costs are beginning to fall: “If you look at materials as a whole, over the years the costs are gradually reducing. The end plan is to reduce the cost of composites and give a cost benefit to components used in vehicles.”

Kumar explained that advanced technologies will reduce the cost of composites substantially, which will in turn spur demand for composites “exponentially” in coming years. The design of composite components and new manufacturing tools are expected to reduce engineering cycle time, cut costs to both suppliers and OEMs, and improve quality.

Composites “unparalleled,” but still too expensive

The global composites materials market was roughly US$28bn in 2014, and Kumar expects this to continue growing by 15-20% each year in future. The penetration of carbon composites is increasing, which assists OEMs in meeting CAFE regulations, “but costs are still too high,” he says. “Carbon composites are going to drive the availability for OEMs to meet fuel efficiency demands, but also improve vehicle performance and life-cycles.”

Kumar believes that carbon composites have “unparalleled” potential for lightweight construction, and as costs fall – both in terms of raw material and manufacturing – the usage and penetration of carbon composites will become even higher. “There are many technologies that are coming out to help high-volume processing,” he commented.

Between 2014 and 2030, Kumar expects raw material, manufacturing and total costs of carbon composites to fall significantly, and that going forward, these materials will be competitive and cost effective against materials used today. “It is only a matter of time, and essentially the end user is going to benefit from this.”

Freddie Holmes 


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