The ever-growing concern of our rapidly depleting fossil fuels is a key issue in the 21st century and the automotive industry is a major contributing factor. With the British government following suit of other countries, proposing a ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, the world is looking to what we can do to reduce our emissions in the meantime.
A collaboration of organisations including Ford Motor Company, Gestamp, GRM Consulting and our own Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) have manufactured a new ‘tie-blade-knuckle’, a key component in the rear suspension of certain Ford cars. This is part of a UK project called ‘Composite Lightweight Automotive Suspension System’ (CLASS). This new part replaces the heavy, steel component currently used with a carbon fibre composite single-moulding, shaving off 4.5kg from the vehicle’s total weight.
While Ford, Gestamp, and GRM provided design and optimization of the new part, WMG played a key role in the project. They conducted materials trials as well as manufacturing the tie-blade-knuckle in-house. The process used and refined at WMG will be transitioned to industry partners Ford and Gestamp and will be rolled out in new vehicles.
This is part of a UK project called ‘Composite Lightweight Automotive Suspension System’ (CLASS)
Professor Ken Kendall, Head of Structural Composites at the Automotive Composites Research Centre at WMG, commented that “working with high volume OEM and Tier 1 partners such as Ford and Gestamp is at the heart of our activities, and we were able to provide the CLASS project with our expertise in materials characterisation and selection, design for manufacturability, and manufacturing process development.”
Weight reduction is usually done via the modification of body parts rather than the chassis or powertrain as the design is much easier. This is due to the latter needing to withstand high loads and stress in use, hence why these parts are rarely re-engineered in mainstream automotive manufacturing. These composite suspension parts are commonplace, hurtling round Formula 1® circuits worldwide, but this will be their first use in a mainstream vehicle. This significant weight reduction will improve performance and comfort by reducing ‘unsprung mass’ but, more importantly, it majorly benefits fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
These composite suspension parts are commonplace, hurtling round Formula 1® circuits worldwide, but this will be their first use in a mainstream vehicle
The CLASS project recently won a JEC Innovation Award in the Automotive Innovation category and the part is taking the next step towards mass production. More innovations like this are needed in the 22 years left of British petrol and diesel vehicle manufacturing to reduce our carbon footprint and conserve the remaining fossil fuel supplies our Earth has left.