Ford is currently working on bringing a supercar to production that has potentially over 700 horsepower and carry a price tag north of $400,000. While that’s nice to look at and think about, it might difficult to understand why a company would invest so much time and money into a project that will have so few sales. How does a 2017 Ford GT benefit you and I?
At this year’s annual Ford Trends technology symposium in Silicon Valley, Ford showed a variety of automotive journalists and social influencers how technology found in the uber-Ford GT makes its way into other automobiles.
Carbon fiber, which makes up the entire body of the Ford GT, is a material that is incredibly strong and incredibly light. Lightening a supercar makes sense, because every pound saved increases the vehicle’s overall speed and handling. But the money being invested into carbon fiber now will see results in the cars that you and I buy tomorrow.
For example, carbon fiber is used in the construction of the wheels that are on the Ford Shelby GT350R. Reducing the weight of the wheels makes the wheels easier to turn, improving acceleration, but also lightens the car, improving fuel economy.
While the GT350R is still an extreme example, Ford showed off a concept Fusion that also had the carbon fiber wheels. In this case, the lightweight wheels would be used exclusively for fuel economy. Alone they might not improve economy much, but as more and more components become made with carbon fiber, it’ll all start to add up.
Right now carbon fiber is still pretty expensive. You wouldn’t want to scuff up your carbon fiber wheel. But, as the company spends more time researching, and using, the material, the prices will come down.
What’s a good example of this? The 2015 Ford F-150. The entire body of the truck is made out of aluminum alloy. The material is more expensive to produce than high-strength steel, but Ford was clever in the way they manufacture the trucks to keep costs in line with what it cost to build a steel truck. That means the end consumer doesn’t end up paying more for the truck just because Ford wanted to use a new material.
The same will happen with carbon fiber. The Ford GT is the start of the carbon fiber experiment at Ford, but it’s not the end. We’ll see the technology in the high-performance vehicles first, where people will pay extra for it, but eventually it’ll trickle down into the cars you and I drive every day. That means we’ll end up with safer cars that get better fuel economy, without sacrificing the things we care about in modern cars.
That sounds like a big win to me!