General Motors is reportedly looking into the use of carbon fiber in its truck beds, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal — a move aimed at lightening pickups to help meet tightening CAFE standards.
There is some give and take related to using carbon fiber. Pound for pound it is stronger than steel or aluminum. However, that strength only comes in certain dimensions. Metals are ductile and malleable, meaning they can bend and stretch and can be returned to their original shape. Carbon fiber won’t dent; it will just crack or shatter. Carbon fiber will flex depending on the weave and epoxy mix, but when it goes, it’s gone.
This might bring up a dilemma for GM since a large part of its marketing campaign for the past few years was the durability of its steel beds over Ford’s aluminum. There have been a few different ads showing typical pickup loads poking holes in the F-150’s aluminum beds.
Repairing these parts can be even more expensive
Another downside is the cost. There’s a reason it is primarily used in high-end luxury cars. Repairing these parts can be even more expensive. A carbon-fiber bed is surely going to raise the cost of the truck up front, but savings will be seen in fuel economy.
This is not the first time an auto manufacturer has used composite materials for pickup beds — both the Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tacoma have been using them for years with little issue.
This wouldn’t even be the first time GM used composite truck beds. The “Pro-Tec” bed was offered in 2001 on the Chevrolet Silverado. It turned out the pricey option was one few buyers wanted. Presumably, the engineers at General Motors learned their lessons on the Pro-Tec and will apply those to the carbon-fiber bed.
The war on weight will certainly continue, and we’ll be following it.