By Nikhil Das and Tilak Gowda
Carbon fibre is known for its rigidity and lightweightness. How this material can be the future of electric vehicles?
Sustainable Mobility—is one of the buzzwords in the Indian vehicle market, with most of the conversations revolving around the potential Electric Vehicle Revolution and the infrastructural challenges the segment is still facing in realising the same. While the paucity of charging stations is one of the most compelling issues, the vehicle performance of battery-powered cars is always a question mark in the mind of driving enthusiasts. Whatever the fuel is, how much greener the option may be, if the vehicles cannot run intercity, have poor take-off and are not smooth enough to drive long distances, it will be difficult for EVs to break that mental barrier of being a city option.
The thoughts are well depicted in the current and predicted offtake of EVs. While it is expected that by 2030 there will be almost 15 million electric vehicles on the road, BoltEarth study shows that the vehicular mix will be 100 per cent buses, 80 per cent two and three-wheelers, 70 per cent of commercial vehicles and a very unpredictable number of private vehicles that can vary between 30-70 per cent. This indecisiveness is largely due to the two reasons mentioned before where will one charge the car when outside the city and will an electric vehicle provide the rush of speed that vehicle enthusiasts are fond of?
Adding Speed to Sustainability
Carbon fibre (CF) is a tried and tested answer to the second challenge—how to add speed and feel to EVs. CF is a composite material made of carbon fibres and resin that is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio. It is stronger and lighter than most metals, making it an ideal material for reducing the weight of vehicles without compromising their structural integrity. Carbon fibre is also resistant to corrosion, fatigue, and heat, which makes it more durable and reliable than other materials. Moreover, it has been under widespread use in the aerospace industry and motor vehicle racing category. Both these vehicles need speed, agility and moulded looks that are efficiently provided by Carbon Fibre.
Reducing the weight of metal parts to the tune of 1:10, Carbon fibre is used extensively in parts like body panels, interior trims, and suspension components. In EVs, carbon fibre is particularly useful for reducing the weight of the battery pack to reduce the additional weight and improve cooling inside the vehicle. If the overall weight of the vehicle can be reduced, it will automatically boost the vehicle’s range and improves its efficiency.
The latest manufacturing techniques and materials safeguard that the components made of Carbon Fiber are of the highest quality and durability—increasing the safety of the vehicle. It is ideal for enhancing the performance and aesthetics of electric vehicles. The reduced weight of EVs will imply lesser energy to move, which translates to longer battery life and greater range. Additionally, this fibre is tough to withstand the wear and tear of daily use, ensuring longevity and reliability.
Why are we not using it?
The cost is the answer to the question that all readers must be asking. It is like jewellery in the automotive industry—and thus though many premium brands do flash carbon fibre fittings and parts, most of the automakers shy away from integrating them in the design of the vehicles. But with the challenge of making EVs more user-friendly and accepted vehicles, there seems to be a possibility of CF modular fittings being accepted for EVs and thus in turn charting out a way in how to mass produce these components.
The production of CF components cannot be automated and it will need skilled labours trained to manufacture these parts, which will no doubt be customised for each brand of vehicles. Addressing the EV market will imply mass production of carbon fibre components. With India having affordable labour that needs quality and productive employment, this geography seems to be the viable answer to propose and develop carbon fibre parts manufacturing.
Carbon fibre components will not only make EVs lighter and more aerodynamic but will also help improve the battery life and range of travel. If it can be mass-produced, then the EV market will translate into huge job opportunities both directly and indirectly. As hyped by the World—acceptance of EVs as mass vehicles will transform the face of sustainability in India. Not only environmental impact will be lowered, but it will also make India less dependent on imported oil. It will be significant progress towards a cleaner and greener future, locally, and the full electrification of India will benefit businesses, investors, and consumers alike.
(Nikhil Das is Director at RLZ Motorsports Pvt. ltd. and Tilak Gowda, CEO at RLZ Motorsports Pvt. ltd.)