2009 Corvette Zr1 to Incorporate Carbon Fiber Components

By: Leaftech
General Motors plans to use the 2009 Corvette ZR1 as a test platform for the incorporation of carbon fiber parts in high-volume vehicles. Carbon fiber, a material first used in the racing world, has the advantage of weighing 50% less than steel. Although it is expensive, carbon fiber could be the answer to bringing down body weight, a crucial component in meeting the new federally mandated standards for higher fuel efficiency. The recently set corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) levels call for a fleet average of 35 mpg to be achieved by 2020.

Designers at General Motors predict that it may take as long as a decade to truly understand the potential carbon fiber holds for vehicle manufacturing. The company's first use of carbon fiber was in the 2004 Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition, where the outer hood was fabricated of the material. The 2009 ZR1 will include the use of several key carbon fiber parts including: hood and roof, front and back spoilers, front fenders, and side rocker panels. Overall, the weight of the sports car will be brought down 35 lbs. For instance, the roof panel and roof bow, come in 7.7 lbs. less than the same components on a conventional Corvette. Engineers will be studying the durability of the experimental material over the life of the ZR1s and using the data to improve placement of carbon fiber parts to achieve mass efficiencies.

The ZR1, unveiled in January at the Detroit Auto Show, is a good test bed for the carbon fiber components as it is a high-end sports car to be produced as a limited edition only. Interestingly enough, however, most people will not be able to recognize the presence of the carbon fiber with its distinctive weave pattern on the ZR1 because it will be well hidden beneath a shell of paint. Carbon fiber is highly susceptible to yellowing under ultra-violet light.

The ZR1 will be powered by a 6.2 liter, supercharged V8 and will be capable of producing 620 horsepower making it GM's most powerful car. It will go on sale late in 2008 and will have an annual production run of approximately 2,500. The exact price of the two-door, hatchback coupe (fixed room, rear-wheel drive) has not been nailed down, but it is an exclusive machine on all levels, including the use of its revolutionary carbon fiber components.
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