The carbon-fiber MacPherson strut looks like a pricey idea to shave a few pounds off the next 911, right? Not quite. The concept pictured above is designed specifically for European microcars, the smallest and cheapest cars out there. Created by German auto supplier ZF, the lightweight strut is one of the cooler uses of carbon fiber and foretells the democratization of carbon fiber that we expect in the next ten years.
The MacPherson assembly boasts an integrated wheel carrier and piston rod made from carbon fiber, along with a fiberglass spring and plastic top mounting plate. Beneath the carbon fiber structural elements, there is still a damper tube made from steel to provide a durable wear surface. Total weight savings amount to 6.5 to 9 pounds at each corner, according to ZF.
The concept can easily be adapted to larger vehicles, but the original design is only able to accommodate cars that weigh less than 2000 pounds. How will automakers afford to use one of the most expensive materials on the cheapest cars? ZF says fewer parts and reduced assembly complexity mean a carbon-fiber strut could have a comparable cost to the traditional suspension assembly. If they’re right, we could see this technology showing up by 2014.