Volkswagen is testing the use of aluminum and carbon fiber sheets for the roof panel of its next generation Passat, the brand’s R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg said.
It’s too expensive for use in high volume cars, but implementing the material in certain areas will make sense, he said in a conversation with The Truth About Cars.
“If I change a roof from steel to carbon fiber, I can save some 10 kg. If you have a low weight in the roof area, you lower the center of gravity, that’s good for the car,” he said. But making carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) panels is slow.
Porsche currently has a technology to make CFRP pieces like those found in the 918 Spyder in abou half an hour. While that’s faster than the hours it took previously, it’s still too slow for mass production. Hackenberg hopes the process can be cut down to a few minutes.
Using the lightweight material in something like the Passat would make sense if production barriers could be over come. Hackenberg says it would save about 22 lbs and (of course) move the car’s center of gravity lower.
Before that’s achieved, Volkswagen is already beginning to offer carbon fiber in some of its lower-end vehicles. For example, the performance versions of the seventh-generation Golf will be offered with an optional carbon fiber roof.
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