Last week, Altair and Center for Automotive Research (CAR) announced that Toyota was one of its recipients for the fifth annual Altair Enlighten Award honoring innovation in automotive lightweighting. Toyota split top honors with Faurecia in the module category for its side and luggage doors for the 2017 Lexus LC 500 and the liftgate of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime.
Those parts, according to Toyota, feature carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) inner panels, which are combined with aluminum, glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) and polypropylene outers for components that are 47 percent lighter than conventional metal structures.
“Toyota is excited to offer closure systems that are optimized to the unique mission of each vehicle,” said JP Flaharty, Executive Program Manager at Toyota Motor North America R&D. “With CFRP applied to the Prius Prime liftgate and the Lexus LC side and luggage doors, our customers can recognize the light touch and high tech appearance of these sophisticated, lightweight door systems. Our entire development team is honored to receive the Altair Enlighten Award in the module category.”
The Prius Prime marked the first time a Toyota vehicle has featured a CFRP rear hatch. Using carbon fiber reduces the car’s overall weight, while a dual-wave rear glass design helps cut drag.The Lexus LC registered a 47 percent weight savings on its side door and 40 percent reduction on its luggage hatch, compared to conventional steel structures.
In May, Toyota announced it is also incorporating composite innovation for the 2018 Lexus LC, which has now begun production in Europe. The Lexus LC benefits from similar composite manufacturing that was used to develop for the production of its hand-crafted supercar. These include the use resin transfer molding (RTM) for the production of CFRP sheet molding compounds.
By adapting RTM for volume production, the company has been able to incorporate CFRP in key areas of the LC, including the inner panels of the doors and trunk, which makes a significant contribution to reducing the car’s weight. Specifically, the LC has a 52:48 weight distribution ratio, which automotive pundits have praised. Lexus adds that an optional CFRP roof is available in place of the vehicle’s traditional glass. Aluminum is used for the hood, and steel is only seen in the rear fenders.