The Difficulties of Carbon Fiber
Only a few cars available at your local dealership use carbon fiber. The BMW M6 has some carbon fiber panels on its body, as does the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the Ford GT. The Audi R8 also includes some carbon fiber. What do all these cars have in common? They cost a lot of money -- most start above $100,000. It's rare to see a car with carbon fiber because it's expensive! Ten years ago, carbon fiber cost $150 a pound. Now, the price is around $10 a pound [source: Zoltek]. Steel, on the other hand, costs less than a dollar per pound. Many analysts say that for carbon fiber to make it into widespread use in cars, the price will have to drop to about $5 per pound [source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory]. Cost is the main hurdle carbon fiber will have to overcome before it can provide a viable energy solution.
The second hurdle is waste disposal. When a typical car breaks down, its steel can be melted and used to construct another car (or building, or anything else made of steel). Carbon fiber can't be melted down, and it's not easy to recycle. When it is recycled, the recycled carbon fiber isn't as strong as it was before recycling. Carbon fiber recycled from a car isn't strong enough to be used in building another car. That's a big issue. Having more cars use carbon fiber would save a lot of oil, but it could also generate a lot of waste.
As it stands now, carbon fiber could solve the oil crisis. It's lightweight, durable and safe. But it's also expensive and difficult to recycle. For now, it looks like carbon fiber is just going to be one of many solutions to the oil crisis. When combined with efficient engines, other, cheaper materials and a change in driving habits, carbon fiber is just one piece of the energy puzzle.
To learn more about carbon fiber and cars that incorporate carbon fiber, look over the links on the next page.