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Mercedes-Benz unveils its revamped G-Class

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The all-new G-Class makes its public debut at the Detroit auto show in G550 form. Completely redeveloped and fitted with a 4.0-liter V8 biturbo gasoline engine offering 427ps and 450 lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm to 4,750rpm, despite near-identical looks to its predecessor plenty has changed for the Mercedes-Benz SUV.


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Ford unveils carbon fiber creation

Ford has unveiled a prototype carbon fiber bonnet that could help lower fuel consumption usage.

The carbon fiber reinforced plastic Ford Focus bonnet displayed at the Composites Europe event that took place this week in Dusseldorf, Germany, is constructed from the super-strong material more usually associated with hand built racing vehicles or high-performance super cars.

The prototype bonnet is 50% lighter than a standard steel part. As a result of an on-going research project involving engineers from the Ford European Research Centre, production time for an individual carbon fiber bonnet is fast enough to be employed on a production line – a significant step towards using more lightweight materials.

“Reducing a vehicle’s weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption, but a process for fast and affordable production of carbon fiber automotive parts in large numbers has never been available,” said Inga Wehmeyer, advanced materials and processes research engineer, Ford European Research Centre. “By partnering with materials experts through the Hightech.NRW research project, Ford is working to develop a solution that supports cost efficient manufacturing of carbon fiber components.”

The involvement of the Ford European Research Centre in the Hightech.NRW research project follows Ford’s partnership with Dow Automotive Systems; a collaboration announced earlier this year that will investigate new materials, design processes and manufacturing techniques. Dow Automotive Systems and Ford will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fiber, as well as high-volume manufacturing methods.

Carbon fiber offers a very high strength-to-weight ratio. It is up to five times as strong as steel, twice as stiff, and one-third the weight. Advanced materials such as carbon fiber are key to Ford’s plans to reduce the weight of its cars by up to 340kg by the end of the decade.

“There are two ways to reduce energy use in vehicles: improving the conversion efficiency of fuels to motion and reducing the amount of work that powertrains need to do,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president of research and innovation. “Ford is tackling the conversion problem primarily through downsizing engines with EcoBoost and electrification while weight reduction and improved aerodynamics help to reduce the workload.”

Ford has partnered with specialists from the Institute of Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Henkel, Evonik, IKV (Institute of Plastics Processing), Composite Impulse and Toho Tenax for the Hightech.NRW research project.

Funded by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the project began in 2010 and, despite being set to continue until September 2013, has already made significant progress towards its targets of developing a cost effective method to manufacture carbon fiber composites for body panel applications that can be incorporated into existing vehicle production processes. The project has also made inroads in significantly reducing individual component production times, reducing the amount of finishing work required, meeting requirements for painting and realizing an least a 50% reduction in component weight.

Initial testing suggests that CFRP components such as the prototype Ford Focus bonnet will meet Ford’s high standards for stiffness, dent resistance and crash performance. The component has also performed well in pedestrian protection head-impact tests, thanks to its innovative construction of a special foam core sandwiched between two layers of CFRP.

11 October 2012


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