Chalk up another automotive feat at the hands of the partially unpopular CAFE standards: Audi plans to introduce fiberglass springs to shave weight off its vehicles.
The burning desire for fuel efficiency (thanks to the "pesky" CAFE standards) is driving car manufacturers to rewrite books, go back to the drawing board, and come up with some crazy ideas. Fiberglass springs fall in that category. The springs are made up of fiberglass strands, interlaced with epoxy resin, twisted together. Audi then has a machine wrap even more strands of fiberglass around the core, and then bakes the spring in an oven! Ding! The springs are ready for consumption, or installation on a new Audi.
So why the heck is Audi looking at this seriously? For one, fiberglass doesn't corrode like traditional steel springs would, even after being chipped and beaten, and they aren't impacted by chemicals, such as wheel washing solvents. This would really come into play in areas where massive amounts of salt and other chemicals are spread in the winter.
Another huge win comes in the weight department. In a large mid-size, Audi says springs weigh about 6lbs each, while a fiberglass spring weighs just 3.5lbs, netting a 40% weight reduction. While saving 10lbs on a set of four doesn't sound like much, it contributes to a lighter, more fuel efficient car, meaning lower emissions, and hitting those CAFE standards a bit easier.
Audi also says that the fiberglass springs, called glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) springs can be tuned for different driving situations- so they can offer both a comfortable ride, or a sporty feel, which should allow Audi to use such springs across its lineup.
The springs could see a debut on a new upper mid-size car as soon as late-2014.