Audi continually reviews the suitability of steel, aluminum or fiber-reinforced plastic for each intended purpose, considering both weaknesses and strengths in a potential application, says Stertz. “With aluminum, for instance, new high-strength alloys and further refined component structures will result in significant progress very soon. In the medium term, CFRP components will make the structure of the ASF even stronger, lighter and safer.” According to the company’s website, ASF is a high-strength, aluminum-frame structure into which the panels are integrated to perform a load-bearing function.
Audi has been making production models with CFRP and FRP since 1983, he says. “In contrast to steel or aluminum, carbon fiber is not a material that exhibits the same properties in all directions. Complex load cases such as those that occur in most automobile parts must be compensated for, using a correspondingly large number of carbon-fiber layers. This reduces the lightweight construction potential, however. A composite construction of aluminum, high-strength steels and carbon fiber makes much more sense,” he says.
Through the partnership, the automaker is also seeking to decrease scrap and increase recycling and production efficiency. Stertz says those efforts will include targeting “the enormous expenditure of energy in the CFRP production process chain, even when using renewable energy.”