It seems like every time you turn around another auto manufacturer comes up with a new way to utilize carbon fiber. Many of the carbon fiber-heavy cars they produce are supercars rather than everyday street vehicles. If supercars interest you, take note: the next carbon fiber supercar has arrived.
This particular vehicle is from the UK’s Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) located in Liverpool. It is a single seater with a tremendous amount of graphene-enhanced carbon fiber. At first glance, it looks like a modern interpretation of the Batmobile but without the hokey artwork. With just a single seat, it wouldn’t be ideal as a first date car.
More About the Mono R
This latest iteration of the carbon fiber supercar is known as the Mono R. It is assumed the ‘mono’ designation has to do with its single seat. As for the ‘R’, your guess is as good as anyone else’s. Note that the BAC markets the Mono R as a production car, which is a big deal.
A production car is a car that the manufacturer intends to put into full-scale production with the hope of selling quite a few units. There’s no way of knowing at this point how many BAC hopes to sell. But the fact that it is a production car demonstrates they are investing significantly in it. Anyone who hopes to buy one should expect a significant investment as well.
Graphene-Enhanced Carbon Fiber
BAC was not content with your typical carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) when designing the Mono R. They wanted something better. In fact, they wanted a material that was both stronger and lighter. Research suggested graphene as an avenue to pursue.
Graphene is an allotrope of carbon presented in a single layer of atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. If all of that is too scientific for you, it is enough to know that the material is about 100 times stronger than steel. It is also transparent.
BAC chose to enhance a standard carbon fiber material by including a layer of graphene. The added strength of the grapheme allows for a thinner CFRP, which saves yet more weight. BAC says the material also improves mechanical and thermal performance. For the record, each body panel on the Mono R is made with the graphene-enhanced CFRP. That is just one of many things that defines the Mono R as a supercar.
Rock West Composites, a Salt Lake City company that specializes in carbon fiber products and prototypes, says that enhancing carbon fiber with graphene is a brilliant solution. Like others in the composites industry, they see graphene and additive manufacturing as two driving factors in the future of car design.
Cutting Production Time
Enhancing carbon fiber with graphene is only one of the elements that makes the new Mono R so special. Remember, this is a production car. It is a car that BAC has to produce quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively – three requirements we do not normally associate with carbon fiber.
Virgin carbon fiber is costly and time-consuming to produce. So are the CFRPs made from it. In order to reduce build times and save money, BAC worked with a number of partners to create an additive manufacturing process that addresses some of the key challenges of building cars with composites.
For example, they came up with a 3D printing process utilizing high-performance polymers that can be printed and cured in place. Use of the system has reduced manufacturing times that would have otherwise been too long to be worthwhile. Thus the Mono R is a true production car.