Is Amplitex the future of lightweight cars?
This new wonder material is just as rigid as carbon fibre, much cheaper to produce and more environmentally friendly!
Carbon fibre has been the ultimate word in making lightweight, super-rigid cars for a long time now. It's become almost commonplace in basically any supercar or hypercar and even a few cheaper sports cars such as the Alfa Romeo 4C have made heavy use of the stuff. There's still a very huge problem with carbon fibre though in that it's very expensive to purchase and produce, making it unavailable or economically unviable for the vast majority of production cars. However, Swiss company Bcomp has come up with an incredible new material through some serious research and development that could not only be a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to carbon fibre but could maybe one day replace the use of carbon fibre entirely.
This new material is called Amplitex and it's constructed of flax fibres and epoxy resin that are combined to form a new ultra-rigid composite. Amplitex can be woven in pretty much any way you want and can even be made into a variety of different thicknesses, depending on what application you want to use it for. Compared to carbon fibre, Amplitex is much cheaper and (perhaps more crucially) much more ecologically sustainable to produce because it doesn't require high-temperature manufacturing methods. Bcomp reckons that Amplitex production generates up to 75% less CO2 emissions than carbon fibre and, unlike carbon fibre, it has the potential to be recycled at the end of its lifespan. Amplitex is also predicted to be up to 30% cheaper to manufacture than carbon fibre.
Whilst this seems like some kind of science-fiction material, it's actually already being used for some projects. The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR racing car pictured at the top of the article uses a bodykit and bonnet made out of the stuff, it's already being used by McLaren in the seats for its Formula 1 cars and Polestar used it in the construction of the interior for their stunning Precept concept. Polestar is actually planning to fully adopt it into the production of its cars, being one of the first manufacturers to use the material on a mass-produced scale.
Will we be seeing high-end manufacturers fully switch over to Amplitex in the future? We won't know for certain just yet. It is a material that has serious potential though, especially in mass-production applications where it's not only noticeably cheaper to produce than carbon fibre but also much more environmentally friendly. With McLaren, Porsche and Polestar already using the material for certain projects, it's likely only a matter of time before it starts appearing in mass-produced road cars. Whatever the case, it's a very interesting new material that has seriously huge potential!