CarbonPro project will give GM expertise in application of lightweight carbon-fibre
GENERAL Motors will make history in the coming weeks with the start of regular production of a carbon-fibre cargo bed in its ’19 GMC Sierra Denali and Sierra AT4 large pickups, an intensely durable and lightweight technology it hopes to apply to other future products.
As US fuel economy rules tighten, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler must find ways to make the trucks they bank on so heavily more efficient. Ford introduced an aluminium body to its bread-and-butter F-150 several years ago to shave weight, while FCA this year added battery-backed 48V mild-hybrid technology to its Ram line of pickups.
The CarbonPro cargo bed for the Sierra saves 28kg over traditional steel and nearly 45kg with the ability to eliminate bedliners, yet it has six times the impact resistance of steel and resists dents, scratches and corrosion.
It opens new design opportunities too, such as available moulded floor cavities to more safely secure motorcycles, additional tie-downs and nearly 1.1m2 of extra cargo volume.
Mark Voss, engineering group manager for the Sierra says of the cargo bed’s durability: “When the end of the world comes, all that’s left will be cockroaches and CarbonPro beds.”
However, before the apocalypse arrives GM hopes the CarbonPro project will give it the foundational expertise in the application of lightweight carbon-fibre and ever-increasing volume to drive down costs of the expensive material to broaden its use across the Detroit automaker’s product portfolio.
GM recently made a mixed-materials strategy central to its product-development process, where it employs a combination of as many as 13 different materials to improve fuel economy, driving dynamics and cabin quietness.
Carbon fibre is among the most costly and difficult to integrate with other materials, but GM says it has found unique bonding and adhesion methods to make it work. The process was first applied to the Cadillac CT6 large luxury sedan and Herrick says GM continues to refine the science, including the best ways to join pieces of the CarbonPro box with rivets and adhesive.
An $8 billion industrial enterprise, Teijin and GM have been developing the carbon-fibre cargo bed for nearly a decade and shortly before the technology was ready for production.