The combination of a drive towards greater fuel efficiency and increasingly strict greenhouse gas emission regulations has forced carmakers to look for ways to make their vehicles lighter. For steelmakers this has meant increased competition from other materials, including aluminium, magnesium and carbon fibre.
SBB 3 March Major European carmaker Volkswagen (VW) is pursuing lightweight alternatives to steel by acquiring a stake in German company SGL Carbon, which makes carbon-based products, including carbon fibres and composite materials.
VW has purchased 8.18% of the shares in SGL Carbon, Steel Business Briefing learns from an SGL statement.
“SGL Group perceives the financial participation of Volkswagen as an appreciation of our long-term start-up and development activities in new materials and technologies, particularly in automotive lightweight construction,” SGL chief executive Robert Koehler said.
“These include, among others, carbon fibre-based structural parts, the well known carbon ceramic brake discs, as well as components for lithium ion batteries, which will play an important role in electric mobility,” Koehler added.
Working with SGL will increase the know-how in developing lightweight vehicle production, a technical expert at VW tells SBB. Increasingly, the vehicle industry is finding alternatives for lightweight design, such as aluminium and magnesium. However, looking to the future, steel will remain one of the main components in the automotive industry, he says.
VW is developing a vehicle widely using carbon fibre for series production, an SGL representative notes. Carbon fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP) can replace steel in an effort to reduce weight in car, marine and aircraft industries. Technology is developing so that the potential for using carbon is growing, and automation of technical processes leads to the possibility of producing more lightweight vehicles, he adds.
About 35,000 tonnes/year of carbon fibre-reinforced plastics are currently used in general worldwide, compared to the 1.3bn-1.4bn t/y of crude steel.