GS Caltex, South Korea’s second-largest oil refiner, said Wednesday that it was in talks with a U.S.-based electric car maker to supply its precompounded carbon long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic, or CLFT, which has been gaining rapid popularity as a substitute for steel.
“A team of officials will visit the United States at the end of this month to discuss the use of CLFT in the carmaker’s electric models,” said a GS Caltex spokesman, declining to name the U.S. company.
GS Caltex said that it sees more business opportunities as carmakers are placing a bigger priority on extending the driving range and reducing the weight of electric vehicles.
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“This means the demand for lightweight materials such as carbon fibers will rise, and that is when we step in,” said the official.
CLFT is a type of carbon fiber composite material that is drawing keen attention from carmakers ― particularly those focusing on electric and sports cars ― for its potential to replace steel as a stronger but lightweight substitute.
The more popular carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, or CFRP, has already been adopted by luxury vehicles like BMW’s electric cars i3 and i8 and some Formula One race cars.
CLFT is 50 percent lighter and more flexible than CFRP, according to GS Caltex.
At home, the refiner recently signed a contract with Kia Motors to supply CLFT to be used on the panoramic sunroof of the carmaker’s upcoming all-new Sorento sport utility vehicle.
The deal will mark the first time for the material to be adopted by mass-produced cars that sell more than 100,000 units annually.
GS Caltex operates two plants in Korea and one in China. The facilities together can produce up to 12,000 tons of CLFT per year.
Once the company completes its new plant in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, in 2015, the annual production capacity is expected to rise to 20,000 tons, the company said.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)