Land Rover is looking towards composites for future generations of vehicles, particularly materials like carbon fiber. These lightweight materials can hugely reduce the weight of a vehicle, increasing its efficiency as automakers look to switch fully to electric cars in the next decade or so.
The research is part of the Tucana Project, a four-year endeavor being undertaken by several British auto industry partners to determine their future construction materials. The project began in 2018, with the intent to reduce carbon emissions by 4.5 million tonnes by 2032.
Carbon fiber will eventually largely replace the steel and aluminum that have built Land Rovers since 1948. A carbon fiber truck structure could weigh 77 pounds less than an aluminum one, greatly reducing the mass that has to be moved by electric motors. Carbon fiber is stiffer than aluminum, too, so that can impact body designs. (For example, the new Defender is the stiffest Land Rover ever, but that comes at the cost of a very bulky aluminum unibody structure.)
A lighter bodyshell also allows for a larger electric battery pack, swapping structure for power cells. That helps fix “range anxiety,” the major impediment to many people who are considering buying an electric car.
These composites likely won't make their way into Land Rover models for a while -- all of the major model lines have been recently refreshed, and this will likely come hand-in-hand with greater changes as the company begins to go electric. However, it's an interesting and encouraging project, with the hope that the company can retain its core characteristics of durability and function while using new construction technologies.
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