Speaking to TMR at the 2017 Tokyo motor show, Mazda’s head of chassis development, Hiroyuki Matsumoto, said he believes one of the biggest challenges facing mainstream models for the future is reducing weight.
Mazda is set to launch its new generation Skyactiv architecture in 2019, starting with the new Mazda3, which is made primarily from steel. Matsumoto says that moving to composite materials such as carbon fibre will help reduce weight, add rigidity and decrease vibrations and noise. Carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) is a strong, light material that, as the name implies, uses a combination of carbon fibre and plastic.
“We think CFRP is very efficient for the cabin,” Matsumoto said. “But controlling direction of fibre we can make it very rigid. Another merit of CFRP is that it can absorb vibration, so it can dampen the noise level,” said Matsumoto.
But carbon fibre is also expensive and currently reserved for the construction of supercars such as Lamborghinis and BMW’s revolutionary i8 hybrid sports car. However, Matsumoto is hopeful Mazda can leverage its relationships to begin incorporating large amounts of CFRP into the chassis and body structure after the next generation of vehicles.
“Yes, CFRP is expensive because it takes much longer time to produce it. So together with a supplier we are developing a manufacturing process so that we can quicken the time of production,” he said.
“So until that technology becomes available we are going to utilise CFRP in the most effective areas in a limited manner.”
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