Swiss researchers say new techniques for creating composite structures will lead to lighter, greener cars that burn less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide.
Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne said by 2013 the auto industry would see car bumpers, doors, and even entire frames made from composite materials.
Before now composites laid down in fiber and resin have been reserved for aeronautics, sailing or Formula 1 racing because of the complexity of their labor-intensive production.
But researchers say a new process allows for the fabrication of composite parts quickly and in large quantities.
The technology is based on the methods used for molding plastics: the desired material is pressure-injected into a compressed mold with filaments of carbon fiber or fiberglass materials and consolidated with resin.
The pressure injection process is extremely rapid, which saves the laborious work of assembling and welding various parts, researchers said.
"With this method, the number of parts per year produced by an assembly line is greatly increased and could reach a million, while the costs of production are reduced by 10 percent on average," EPFL researcher Jan-Anders Manson said.
"In relation to metal, the weight savings is between 20 and 40 percent, depending on the composite pieces used," he said in an EPFL release.