Autoweek reports that BMW will be producing carbon fiber body and chassis parts in a high volume process in 2013. Strong on BMW’s heels is Daimler AG (aka Mercedes) and I suspect many other manufacturers.
Once the barrier to high volume production of carbon fiber components has been broached expect costs to plummet as well.
Why the rush? Weight baby, weight. With the US Federal government pressing for higher fleet fuel economy the most effective way to increase a car’s fuel economy is to make it lighter. Light weight is an advantage to electric cars and hybrids, as well. Lighter weight will aid in increasing the cruising range of electric cars.
For the past couple of decades the weight of cars has been steadily increasing. Only so much economy can be obtained by making gasoline/diesel engines more efficient. Much of the weight gain has been a combination of increasing crash worthiness and the addition of vast amounts of electronic and luxury features.
This is good new in terms of extracting better performance and handling out of new vehicles, especially as it will reduce the cost of what has here-to-fore been an exotic material common only to full race cars and expensive exotics.
This will also mean a whole new set of skills required by body repair shops.
Insurance companies will definitely be watching and studying the introduction of carbon fiber into the general automotive population.