Carbon fibre composite materials are today widely used in the automotive sector for multiple purposes.
McLaren has used carbon ever since the MP4/1 Formula 1 race car in 1981. Since then, carbon fibre, with its ideal mix of strength, stiffness, and low weight, has been used in all forms of motorsport. It has also been used to varying degrees in a majority of supercars: McLaren Automotive, in line with its status as the pioneering supercar company, has not made a road car without it. To this day, it’s used in hoods, roofs, suspension components, strut bars, full chassis, body panels, and even trim panels.
In 2018, McLaren opened its McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in the Sheffield region of Yorkshire in the North of the UK. MCTC is cementing its status as a world-leader in lightweight and composites materials technology. Just a few examples: Magna Exteriors has formed a joint venture with GAC Component Co. Ltd. (GACC, Guangzhou, China) to begin production of thermoplastic composite (TPC) liftgates. Jiangling Motors Corp.
The market for carbon fibre in automotive applications was estimated at more than 7,000 metric tons (MT) per year by Chris Red of Composites Forecasts and Consulting LLC (Mesa, Ariz., U.S.) at CW’s Carbon Fibre 2017 conference, with more than 100 models currently specifying carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) for OEM components. He projects this market will grow to almost 11,000 metric tonnes by 2025.
Today, China is now the largest car producing nation with more than 28 million vehicles produced in 2019, followed by the USA (around 11 million) and Japan with 9.7 million. China and Japan are now pushing composite development applications, especially in lower Automotive segments.