Ford, Magna Develop New Carbon Fiber Subframe

The quest for higher fuel economy has forced many automakers to explore alternative solutions to overcome this dilemma with Ford and Magna revealing an interesting solution to this challenge that could redefine the way we think about vehicle underpinnings.

Unlike the bulk of new technologies that focus on the engine compartment, Ford and Magna’s new innovation focuses on the vehicle’s subframe, with the new unit embracing carbon fiber construction versus traditional steel.

In addition to the obvious weight savings this provides, the new frame also uses fewer pieces, and has simpler construction than before. This is thanks to the elimination of 45 steel pieces which are replaced with two molded parts and four metallic mounting points. This slashes the part count by 87 percent, and the moldings even use high strength adhesives and rivets to help hold the entire unit together. Magna also revealed that despite the 34 percent drop in weight, the prototype frame does not skimp on safety, and will not sacrifice rigidity or crash worthiness.

Currently Magna is producing the subframes for continued development and testing at Ford. The auto giant will evaluate factors such as corrosion, stone chip resistance, as well bolt load retention. Look for elements of this technology to eventually trickle into production vehicles though it could be a while before the cost and feasibility challenges are surpassed for mass vehicle production.