Sports car design has come a long way since the early days of steel bodies held onto heavy ladder frames. The strength of a vehicle is distributed throughout the entire body, requiring the material to be not only light enough for good performance, but also strong enough to stay together.
For many years now, supercars and even some expensive sports cars use carbon fiber as a primary build material. The math is simple, carbon fiber is lightweight, and can withstand a lot of force compared to traditional metals such as steel and aluminum. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and C8 Corvette Z06 even offer carbon fiber wheels as durable, low-weight options. But just how much of an advantage does carbon fiber have over those other materials?
Courtesy of the “Crazy Hidraulic Press” channel on YouTube, we can see visually how different materials are affected by the stresses that most car chassis’ are put through in extreme conditions of pressure via a hydraulic press.
We’ll spare you the gritty details of the video, as you’re probably smart enough to know why vehicle chassis parts aren’t made of acrylic or brass. The meat of the test is between carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel.
To test the strength, equal dimension tubes are placed in a hydraulic press, and the force at which the material fails is recorded. Think of this test as similar to a power-to-weight ratio, with the optimum combination being inversely proportional.
Carbon fiber only withstood 2,998kg before it started to crack and splinter, but it was also the same weight as the PVC pipe (which could only handle 1,538 kg). Next up was aluminum at 3,840kg. The thing about the metal – considered lightweight – is that it’s almost double the weight of carbon fiber, without achieving double the pressure.
Stainless steel withstood 15,800 kg of pressure before failing, that’s five times what the carbon fiber could handle. However, the steel was approximately five times heavier than carbon fiber. The biggest loser here is probably brass, as it was the third heaviest material, but was the weakest of all the metals.