Carbon fiber is used in cars to lower weight while providing enough strength to withstand the rigors of racing. You’ll notice that supercars and hypercars the world over place a premium on lowering their weight in addition to increasing engine output and refining their aerodynamic designs — and lowering weight is precisely what carbon fiber is good for in a car. Carbon fiber is five times lighter than steel while being less dense than aluminum, which is one of the lightest metals available. In a contest between two otherwise identical cars, the vehicle with carbon fiber parts is likely to outperform the model with parts made from traditional materials, because shedding weight allows it to make the most of its powertrain.
Carbon fiber is a polymer that’s also known as graphite fiber. It’s a strong, stiff material that’s made of crystalline filaments of carbon twisted together. It can be woven into a cloth or molded into a permanent shape and coated with plastic or resin.
The process of making carbon fiber is both mechanical and chemical. Long strands of fibers are drawn and heated to extremely high temperatures without having contact with oxygen — oxygen would cause the fibers to burn — which causes carbonization. Carbonization is the process by which most non-carbon fibers are expelled from the material. The result is a material composed of tightly interlocked chains of mostly carbon atoms — what we know as carbon fiber.
Think about it: you could have one vehicle with traditional auto parts and one with extensive carbon fiber material that otherwise have identical engines and shapes — the vehicle with carbon fiber will be lighter and stronger, enabling it to make the most of its powertrain. This is why the Ferrari SF90 Assetto Fiorano variant, for example, is the performance-oriented option — both the standard SF90 and the Assetto Fiorano are world-class performers, but the Assetto Fiorano variant implements more carbon fiber materials to lower the car’s weight (among other enhancements).
Yes. Carbon fiber is a stronger material than steel, even though it’s significantly lighter. In the auto world, carbon fiber is ideal because it lowers the vehicle’s weight while still being able to withstand the stresses of racing at high speeds. In fact, energy.gov claims that “carbon-fiber composites could reduce passenger car weight by 50 percent and improve fuel efficiency by about 35 percent without compromising performance or safety.” In other words, the use of carbon fiber and carbon-fiber composite materials in cars is all upside.
The use of carbon fiber products in race cars is only likely to increase, particularly as Ferrari looks to continually lighten their vehicles without sacrificing performance or safety. Of course, the only way to truly understand the difference that carbon fiber makes is to drive a car that makes extensive use of it — and most modern Ferraris do.
Buying a Ferrari is a rite of passage for any true auto enthusiast, and we’re here to facilitate your purchase! While our dealership is based in the Chicago area, we’ve assisted drivers from Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and throughout the United States. Contact Continental AutoSports Ferrari today to get started, and get answers to other commonly-asked questions about Ferrari parts and materials.
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