Japan’s Toray plans carbon fibre car parts

Tokyo, October 18:

A Japanese firm said it aimed to become the world’s first company to mass produce car parts made of carbon fibre, which can make vehicles stronger, lighter and more fuel efficient.

Japan’s Toray Industries Inc. said it would invest 20 billion yen ($170 million) to set up a research and production centre in Nagoya, central Japan by 2010.

“We will accelerate development of carbon fibre components for automobiles as well as for aircraft,” Toray spokesman Ichiro Maeda said. “We hope the parts will be widely adopted in mid-class automobiles.” The firm controls more than one third of the world’s market for carbon fibre, which is better known for its use in advanced vehicles like Formula One cars.

The material’s high cost has so far limited its use in mass produced automobiles, but Toray hopes demand will grow as production costs decline given carbon fibre’s superior strength and lighter weight compared with steel.

The company already has a lucrative deal to supply carbon fibres to US aircraft maker Boeing for its next-generation 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. Toray says it aims to more than double its sales to the automobile industry to 350 billion yen by the year to March 2016.

In February, Toray said it would invest 55 billion yen in Japan, France and the US to boost output of carbon fibre, mostly for Boeing’s Dreamliner which is scheduled to go into service in 2008.