science | July 31, 2013

Carbon Fiber Cars: Neri Oxman On the Vehicle Of The Future

A new vehicle may completely revolutionize the car manufacturing process. “The future is fibers,” science speaker Neri Oxman said at the car's unveiling event. Carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), that is. The new BMW i3 makes more extensive use of the material than any other mass-produced car, making it the first vehicle to be constructed using more fabric than steel. Rather than cutting and bending steel or aluminum, the car was made by cutting and stamping the CFRP into the appropriate sizes and shapes. It weighs substantially less than other EV vehicles, performs better than others in its class, and is more economically and environmentally sustainable than most of its competition.

While the material is more expensive than steel, each vehicle requires less of it which brings down manufacturing costs substantially. Not only that, but the company has employed eco-friendly power sources in the construction process, incorporated recycled materials in the car itself, and, since it's electric, it cuts down on carbon emissions. Buyers also get a federal tax credit for buying one, and the company is offering some of the models in a car-sharing program. (Check out Kent Larson's work for a more in-depth analysis of the benefits of mobility-sharing strategies in congested cities).

This new method of fabrication has other benefits, as well. Computers and high-tech machines allow manufacturers to create lighter and thinner surfaces, Oxman explains. This makes for longer-lasting products that are capable of supporting more weight. Overall, the implementation of new design practices such as these points to a more efficient, effective, and eco-friendly manufacturing process, she concludes. In all of her work, Oxman looks to nature to inspire new design technologies. In her work at MIT's Mediated Matter Lab she is experimenting with 3D printing and the use of unconventional fabrication methods to create products that work with nature, instead of against it. She constantly looks towards the future—and cars designed from textiles are no exception.

In her talks, Oxman shares her fascinating work in the eco-activism space. Combining nature and technology, she shows audiences how to rethink design to solve the social and ecological problems we deal with every day. To book Neri Oxman as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.

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politics | July 30, 2013