July 17, 2008 Britain's Axon claims that its newly patented mass-production techniques will make carbon composite car frames and bodywork even cheaper than their metal counterparts - and only 40% as heavy. What a revolutionary technology this could be - the power to weight ratio of any vehicle on the planet could be dramatically increased for no extra cost! The company plans to release a highly affordable 500cc passenger car making at least 100mpg from a basic petrol engine in 2010, and Axon is confident its simple, lightweight solution to the fuel economy challenge will be highly competitive against the big competition in the Progressive Automotive X-Prize contest.
It's been common knowledge for decades the carbon-fiber composites offer the strength of steel with only a fraction of the weight - but they're still viewed as exotic materials because of the high cost of traditional manufacturing techniques. And since it's been cheaper and more marketable to boost engine power than to look at making lighter cars, most manufacturers have stuck with steel and aluminum.
But carbon fiber specialists at Axon believe their new mass-manufacturing process can make carbon fiber frames and bodywork even cheaper than their metal counterparts. To back up their claims, they company plans to release this 2-seater, 500cc passenger car in 2010 at "an affordable price" - and they're aiming for more than 100 mpg from a simple, small 500cc engine, simply because it will be so light.
If Axon, which presented displayed its platform as part of the FoS-Tech pavilion at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, can prove that carbon composites can be as cheap and reliable as steel or aluminum, the same technology could generate massive efficiency increases in cars from other manufacturers around the world - although the cost of switching over from metal could prove a killer for established automakers. Still, while the average buyer is still more likely to pay extra for a more powerful car than a more efficient one, a technological advance of this kind could mean a huge increase in performance for no extra price - and that's the sort of thing car buyers will respond to.
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