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How Composites are Improving Cars

If you’re a fan of classic cars, you probably think “they just don’t build cars like they used to” and you don’t mean that in a positive way. You’d be correct in saying that car manufacturers are going about building cars in whole new ways, using new materials and new technology.

Classic car enthusiasts often argue that cars today just aren’t made to withstand an accident and are so much easier to the total – they aren’t wrong. In fact, cars today are designed to crumple upon impact. That might sound crazy, but the physics behind it is simple. When you get into an accident, the kinetic energy from the vehicle has to go somewhere. Instead of making cars that last through an accident, vehicles are now made to take the brute of the force so that the car’s occupants don’t have to. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Who cares if your car makes it through the crash if you don’t survive. Harsh? Yes. But modern cars are designed this way to put our safety first.

LONDON, UNITED KINDOM – JUNE 6: The Bugatti Veyron Supersport on display at The London Concours event. The Honourable Artillery Company host the two day luxurious automotive garden party at their headquarters in Old Street, London. (Photo by Martyn Lucy/Getty Images)

With composites, modern cars weigh less than ever before, giving us great power to weight ratios while also making cars safer. Carbon fiber and fiberglass composites are an incredibly strong and durable material and have been used in the automotive industry for racecars and supercars for decades.

Reducing the weight of the car has many benefits outside of a car’s performance. A lighter car means that the suspension has less weight to carry. This also means that the suspension has to adjust for less weight as the car hits bumps and dips in the road. The braking system also sees some relief from reducing the weight, because the heavier an object is, the harder it is to stop. As cars lose weight once held by heavy metal frames and bodies, the suspensions and braking systems become more effective and can last longer than ever before.

Unlike steel and some aluminum alloys, composite materials don’t rust. This is incredibly beneficial to a majority of cars that experience rust due to ice, snow and salt exposure – which in many countries happens to be a lot of cars. The reduction of rust means that cars last longer and are more durable.

Carbon Fiber Bugatti Chiron
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – MARCH 16: The Bugatti Chiron by Mansory at the Geneva International Motorshow 2019. Mansory has transformed most of the Chiron’s exterior and interior, to create the ‘Centuria’, Mansory’s vision of the Bugatti Chiron. Mansory claim this to be the most customised and expensive Chiron to date. (Photo by Martyn Lucy/Getty Images)

Composites are easy to customize and mold into different shapes. They require different tooling to work on than metal and don’t require specialist trades such as welding and metal-bending. Composites can be used to create an infinite number of shapes without losing their structural rigidity. Essential, composites make it cheaper and easier to create a new car, exotic car styles for supercars or make any every day BMW look that much sharper. They can be molded, bent and shaped in so many ways the possibilities are essentially endless.

With the rise of composite use in the automotive industry, it has become cheaper and more popular to use than ever before. While some have been used exclusively for the sports car and supercar markets in the past, composites are quickly becoming a part of life for many consumer cars.