McLaren Uses Plant-based Composite, Replaces Carbon Fibre

McLaren Uses Plant-based Composite, Replaces Carbon Fibre

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Since the dawn of cars, manufacturers have tried to find ways to outdo each other in a bid to show off the best available tech. Be it the most efficient engine or the best soft touch materials, cars have come a long way since the horse-and-carriage days. Nowadays, with the likes of Tesla and such, even battery-powered cars are starting to become a norm. However, McLaren has their sights onto sustainable composites instead. The Woking-based technology company has found a way to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing the usage of carbon fibre on their Formula 1 cars. Well yes but actually no. With the help of Bcomp, McLaren has integrated natural fibres weaves into the fabric architecture of their components. First of which are the racing seats for Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris. Making them the very first Formula 1 car to be partly made of renewable textile fibres.

How do renewable fibres fare compared to carbon fibre?

Called flax, the raw biodegradable fibre is primarily used in the production of linen. As flax is actually a plant, in the end it can be ground down into a new base material or recycled without residual waste. Unlike carbon fibre, these have lowered carbon footprint by 75% as compared to the counterpart. While the environmental benefits are cool, the properties of flax go beyond in terms of performance. The structure of flax fibres provides low density and high stiffness, which affords the opportunity to reduce weight while simultaneously improving vibration damping, as well as resistance to breakage, torsion and compression. This improves comfort and reduces vibration in the cockpit, which can have a fatiguing effect on drivers, especially over a race distance and particularly at circuits with aggressive kerbs.

Are they as strong as carbon fibre?

Just like carbon fibre, they will break upon impact. However, unlike carbon fibre, flax fibres isn't prone to brittle fracture and splintering. The structure itself will help dissipate energy upon impact and the debris itself will not cause punctures for other racers. Meaning, less virtual safety car occurrences due to car crashes.

Flax fibres are substantially cheaper

With 2021's new regulation for Formula 1 coming right around the corner, these new materials will help keep the budget lower. Using flax fibres, teams are able to cut development costs up to 30% as compared to carbon fibre. Now in a sport like Formula 1, that's a large chunk of money. This is an advantage for teams who need to pursue performance in other aspects of the sport.

There's a whole car to restructure

“When used intelligently, the flax fibres reduce weight and cost, while maintaining and, in some cases, even improving performance. There are a range of possible applications beyond the car itself, including pit gear, truck panels, packing cases, timing stands and mould tools.” says Bcomp CEO and Co-Founder Christian Fischer. We hope to see this catch on in the near future and with more teams having the same goals. Also, it could be an alternative to those expensive carbon fibre parts for us regular folks with regular cars. Written by | Danial Malek Images by | McLaren