Corvette Leads World in Composite Material Development and Technology
When the 2014 Corvette Stingray finally hits the street later this year, it’ll be a prime example of the best cutting-edge ways to use composite materials to cut the weight of vehicles.That was the word Monday from a GM executive during the 2013 Center for Automotive Briefing Seminars.
“The all-new Stingray composite materials were developed specifically for the seventh-generation Corvette,” said Mike Regiec, GM manufacturing chief of body manufacturing engineering. “In fact, the Corvette is the world leader in composite material development and technology.”
With every gallon of gasoline that has to be used by a car being scrutinized carefully these days, a weight reduction of any kind can mean a significant increase in fuel economy, according to Regiec.
He said a 10 percent cut in a vehicle’s weight can translate into a 3 to 4 percent cut in fuel consumption.
Regiec says GM searches constantly for a balance between the use of different materials and how much customers are willing to pay.
In the Corvette’s case, customers want the best car possible, without breaking the bank, of course, but they are willing to go the extra mile if it means better performance.
That translates into the use of premium materials throughout the C7, which features some 18 pounds of carbon fiber, including the hood and roof panels, “to meet the performance needs” expected by Corvette customers, Regiec says.
That’s not to mention many other advanced materials and new techniques in the C7, including lightweight shape memory alloy wire and new aluminum welding technology.
Regiec also mentioned that the Stingray should be on showroom floors by October.
“The vehicle is on schedule to be released here (in the) third quarter, and so far we are abs. on track with all of our goals,” he said.
The weight savings aren’t just limited to the Corvette, though. Regiec pointed out that the next-gen Cadillac CTS will use several new aluminum parts, including the doors, to cut its weight by 250 pounds.
Regiec and five other speakers at the conference agreed that the key to making vehicles lighter will be a mix of all products, from steel and composites to carbon fiber and aluminum.
“Every auto company is aggressively looking for weight reduction,” said CAR President and CEO Jay Baron, who monitored the panel.
The 48th annual Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, which runs through Thursday, Aug. 8, is expected to draw about 1,000 industry experts, executives and public officials.
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