According to a Dec. 6 report from the Wall Street Journal, General Motors (GM) plans to use carbon fiber composites to make the beds on premium versions of large pickup trucks. GMâ€™s lightweight beds could reportedly be ready in two years on the next generation of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks.
Today, most truck beds are made primarily of either steel or aluminum. However, carbon fiber is at least 50-75 percent lighter than steel and 20-50 percent lighter than aluminum, depending on the type, according to Ducker Worldwide, a materials consultancy that works with automakers. Adding carbon fiber to truck beds would improve dent resistance and give GM a differentiating feature in the competitive truck market. According to WSJ, GM sells about 800,000 full-size pickups annually, and its use of carbon fiber, even if initially limited to premium models, could push broader adoption in the automotive industry.
However, it would not be the first time GM has attempted to incorporate CFRP in a truck bed. In the early 2000s, GM experimented with a composite truck bed known as the â€śPro-Tecâ€ť on the 2001 Silverado. The experiment ultimately failed to generate revenue and set GM back tens of millions of dollars.
However, since then, some of GMâ€™s competitors have found success in incorporating composites in truck beds. The most recent example is the truck bed of Honda Ridgeline, which has been called the â€śtoughest in the industryâ€ť due to its use of weatherable sheet molded composites (SMC) from Ashland. The benefits of a composite floor bed, Ashland says, include dent and corrosion resistance. The company also said that weatherable SMC parts retain gloss and color despite years of direct exposure to sun, salt, rain and snow. In addition to those benefits, carbon fiber results in weight reduction, which can improve fuel economy without sacrificing strength.
Composites have also proven themselves as a suitable replacement to traditional materials in floor beds for long-haul trucks and trailers. Examples include a truck introduced by Volvo in 2015 that makes use of recycled carbon fiber and a â€śgreenâ€ť truck concept with composite panels introduced by Walmart in 2014. Additionally, during CAMX tomorrow, attendees will have a chance to see Wabash Nationalâ€™s CAMX-Award-nominated MCST – the industryâ€™s first refrigerated trailer made with molded structural composites. Wabash used Structural Compositesâ€™ PRISMAÂ® technology as the main material for the trailerâ€™s entire box, which consists of the roof, walls, nose and floor. The trailer will be on display in the CAMX exhibit hall from Tuesday through Thursday.