Auto design house, composites supplier combine forces to develop lightweight vehicles

Toray Industries, Inc. (Tokyo) concluded a technical partnership agreement with Gordon Murray Design Limited (GMD; Shalford, U.K.) on the side-lines of the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show 2011 aimed at promoting GMD's iStream hybrid production process in vehicle manufacture and other industrial sectors.

Previously, GMD designed Toray's Teewave AR1 (Toray Eco Efficient Wave Advanced Roadster 1) all-composite vehicle, which was unveiled in September last year. The two-seater electric vehicle weighs in at 846 kg including the battery. I its basic structure comprises a resin transfer molded (RTM) monocoque made of thermoset CFRP combined with CFRP shock absorbers to achieve superior stiffness as well as crash safety. It also adopts thermoplastic CFRP for the bonnet, hatch and roof, which are molded in cycle time of one minute compared with 10 minutes for the thermoset CFRP components.


Toray's concept vehicle incorporates numerous plastic-dependent design innovations.

Toray also incorporated cutting-edge materials and technologies for the interior, including Ultrasuede, an artificial fabric made using recycled polyester fibers, various biomass fibers, and foam, as well as alternative coating technologies such as Picasus (a metallic-luster film) and other film decorating techniques.

The iStream assembly process is a complete rethink and redesign of the traditional automotive manufacturing process and could potentially be the biggest revolution in high volume manufacture since the Model T according to the developer. The simplified assembly process means that the manufacturing plant can be designed to be 20% of the size of a conventional factory. This could reduce capital investment in the assembly plant by approximately 80%. Yet the flexibility of this assembly process means that the same factory could be used to manufacture different variants.

By using CFRP monocoques in the Teewave, Toray was able to achieve a lightweight, high stiffness body and superior crash safety even for a two-seater open car, and the basic design provides the added benefit of easy migration to other models. To test the ability of the concept vehicle, the Teewave team calculated the performance of a four-seater vehicle based on the two-seater open car model developed this time and compared that against a commercially available electric vehicle made of existing materials and structure. The result revealed that, when mileage per charge of both vehicles is set at a certain distance, the newly developed concept vehicle achieves a weight saving of about one third, from 1,520 kg to 975 kg, compared with the existing electric vehicle and CO2 emissions were reduced by about 9%.

In addition to furthering the iStream process, Toray's partnership with GMD, primarily in automobile-related R&D, is aimed at joint research and development of other materials and techniques. The technical partnership agreement provides an opportunity to combine core technologies of GMD and Toray to enable development of mass production techniques using advanced materials including CFRP, promote adoption of thermoplastic CFRPs in vehicle main structures, and develop structures boasting high crash safety. Both companies will cooperate across various fields including weight reduction, streamlining, cost cutting and improvements of safety and sustainability so as to bring about meaningful results.

Under its medium-term Project AP-G 2013 management program launched in

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