According to a story first reported by Automotive News, Magna International has delivered a prototype of a carbon fiber composite subframe that reduces mass by 34 percent compared to making a stamped steel equivalent.

Magna was able to reduce the number of parts in the composite subframe by 87 percent by replacing 45 steel parts with two molded and four metallic ones. The subframe is manufactured with Ashland’s epoxy vinyl ester resin and carbon fiber SMC technology. During CAMX 2017, Ashland won an Award for Composites Excellence (ACE) for its role in the development of the subframe.

“This is a revolutionary product because this is a chassis part with load-carrying capacity that joins suspension parts with steel bolts,” said Xiaoming Chen, a technical expert at Ford who played a critical role in the project coming to fruition. “This will help us overcome a lot of technical challenges and show that [composite] materials can be used to build a chassis.”

According to Andrew Swikoski, Magna’s global product line director for lightweight composites, Ford intends to make a decision on whether or not to mass produce the subframe by the end of 2018. He told Automotive News that the subframe will need to be combined with metals to help absorb impact. Currently, the subframe absorbs about five percent of crash energy and resorts to dropping the engine below the vehicle in a collision.

“It’s not meant to be a primary crash absorber,” said Swikoski.

However, implementation of the subframe could be an important step toward helping Ford reach its sustainability goals. Since 2015, Ford engineers have been working to develop new production processes using low-cost, high‑volume carbon fiber composites for its products. The company has been working with DowAksa to reduce the energy needed to produce carbon fiber components, cut the cost of raw materials and develop recycling processes.

Looking to the future, Swikoski told Automotive News it would be a “logical next step” to begin developing carbon fiber materials for side doors.