When you already have one of the lightest, quickest single-seat roadsters available, you have to take some extreme measures to cut weight even further. Thus is the case with BAC and the 1,279-lb (580-kg) Mono. The British boutique car maker is experimenting with graphene-based body panels, a move that helps to shed weight and improve strength and performance.
Graphene is a true wonder material. One of the strongest materials known to man, it's around 200 times stronger than steel, according to the European Union's Graphene Flagship collaborative research project, which also calls it the thinnest compound known to man at a single atom thick, and the lightest known material at 0.77 mg per square meter. Graphene also conducts electricity and heat extremely well, flexes with ease and is transparent.
That's a pretty incredible list of attributes, so it's not surprising that the young material has the theoretical potential to revolutionize a variety of industries, the auto industry among them. Spanish supercar outfit Spania GTA has used it in both the chassis and body of the GTA Spano, and BAC (that's Briggs Automotive Company, if we're being technical) becomes the latest auto brand to experiment with graphene-based design. Like Spania GTA and its partnership with Spain's Graphenano, BAC has kept things in-country, turning to Haydale Composite Solutions for help with development.
BAC's work hasn't been quite as ambitious as Spania's, and is limited to graphene-enhanced carbon fiber rear wheel arches. The company doesn't give a curb weight, but it believes that the use of graphene could offer weight reductions up to 20 percent while boosting strength over the regular carbon fiber construction that plays prominently in the Mono's standard spec. That's an exciting, perhaps terrifying, possibility in an already super-light, 305-bhp single-seater with a 2.8-second 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h). Pair those graphene arches with some carbon-hybrid wheels, and you're really having fun.
"We are pleased to have worked on the design and development of the graphene-enhanced carbon fiber materials for the BAC Mono," says Haydale's director of aerospace and defense Ebby Shahidi. "These initial materials have shown some major increases in impact and thermal performance coupled with improved surface finish. We look forward to collaborating further with BAC and delivering even higher performance materials and components."
BAC showed the graphene-injected Mono at last week's Science in the City Festival in Manchester, a fitting location given that graphene was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004. Professors Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov won a Nobel Peace Prize for their work in 2010, and the university continues to be a leader in graphene research today. The university's automotive-related graphene research has explored ideas like graphene-based rust-free car paint and thermoelectric composites that repurpose motor waste heat for battery charging.
BAC says that it chose the rear wheel arches due to their size and complexity, which provided an insightful test of manufacturing and vehicle fitting. It's not clear if or when it might put graphene into the official production mix.