The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has been revealed to the world with a new aluminum chassis, a new 450 horsepower LT1 engine, and a new world-class interior. But less talked about is the all-new carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body panels, which have helped contribute to an overall lower weight than the outgoing 2013 Corvette. And as we all know, weight is the enemy of speed.
Composites World explains how GM and its subsidiaries developed and built this next-generation body material that is strong, lightweight, and thanks to recent developments, easy to mass produce. Soon it won’t only be the Corvette wearing CFRP panels.
Specifically, the removable roof and hood of the 2014 Corvette Stingray are made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, which is exactly what it sounds like. Carbon fiber, as we know, is an expensive and exotic material that is lightweight and very strong, but manufacturing takes a lot of time and money.
A new out-of-autoclave “pressure press” technology invented by Plasan Carbon Composites allows for the CFRP panels to be manufactured 75% faster than previous autoclave parts. The process also requires 80% less post-mold finishing, streamlining the manufacturing process.
This new process could mean that CFRP panels move from exotic, low-volume vehicles like the Corvette to more mass market offerings, like the Chevy Cruze. Combined, the removable roof and hood use just 18 pounds of carbon fiber between them, and the process takes just 17 minutes to produce one panel. That is a fast enough turnaround time that it can soon be used en masse.
Yup, your average economy car may one day share body panel technology with the Corvette. Wrap your head around that.