Dominic Cartwright, managing director of Prodrive Composites, joined the UK-based company in 2013 to help grow its composites business. His background in the composites sector was developed and strengthened through senior roles at Goodrich Corporation, Smiths Aerospace and TRW Aerospace Systems. Prior to joining Prodrive he was managing director of Crompton Technology Group Ltd., part of UTC Aerospace Systems.
CM Interviews recently spoke to Cartwright to discuss the innovative ways composites are breaking into the mainstream automotive sector. Read the full automotive article in the March/April issue of CM.
What is your company’s focus and why is it important to the composites industry?
Prodrive Composites is one of four businesses that make up the Prodrive Group of companies, which is also involved in motorsport and automotive technology. Our focus is on the design and manufacture of carbon composite components and assemblies for the automotive, aerospace, marine, defines and motorsport industries. We are currently manufacturing everything from the most complex CFRP bodywork ever seen on a road car for a major new supercar manufacturer, to first class cabin interiors for commercial airliners, and are about to start making the next European Mars Rover.
What do you see driving the automotive industry right now and why?
There are a number of drivers in the automotive industry, but undoubtedly the single biggest is emissions reduction/fuel efficiency. The industry is being pressed from both sides on this issue, from the legislators in Europe and North America who are demanding that vehicle manufacturers meet even stricter emissions legislation, and from the consumer who wants cheaper motoring costs. There are now significant financial penalties for vehicle manufacturers who do not meet set emissions targets for their range of cars, while the rising cost of fuel is putting class-leading fuel economy at or near the top of the wish list for motorists.
How do composites fit into this?
One of the best ways to improve fuel economy and therefore emissions, is to reduce the weight of a vehicle. By reducing the vehicle’s weight, you can use a smaller, more efficient engine to power it, without any loss in performance.
For the last three decades the weight of cars has been steadily rising, driven by the demands of crash legislation and the consumer’s desire for more accessories, like powered seats and electric windows. For instance in 1980 an Mk1 VW Golf weighed a little over 800kg. Today, the average weight for the latest Golf is around 1300kg.