What Is the Purpose of a Carbon Fiber Hood?

by Justin Kaehler

Aftermarket carbon fiber hoods have become popular with performance-minded auto enthusiasts. The import tuner/sport compact crowd was the first market to use and popularize carbon fiber hoods, but the high-tech bonnets have been seen on all types of vehicles in recent years, including luxury cars and classic muscle cars.

Carbon Fiber Basics

Carbon fibers are made into a high-tech “yarn,” which is then woven into a cloth-like form. This carbon fiber cloth has a very high tensile strength and a very low weight. Most of the carbon fiber products seen on the consumer market are actually carbon fiber-reinforced polymers, or CFRPs. The high-strength carbon fiber cloth is molded into a shape, such as a hood. A polymer, such as an epoxy, is used to help the carbon fiber retain its shape.

Carbon Fiber in Motorsport

Carbon fiber, boasting one-fifth the weight and all the strength of steel, has become popular in motorsport, where removing weight is just as important as adding power. The lighter a vehicle is, the better it will accelerate, stop and turn. Lighter vehicles are also more fuel-efficient vehicles. Carbon fiber is used extensively in the construction of high-end racecars, such as those seen in Formula 1, ALMS and WRC. Many production car-based racecars began utilizing parts made from carbon fiber as construction of the high-tech material became cheaper. Replacing a car’s heavy, stock steel body panels with carbon fiber pieces produced significant weight savings, which led to improved performance on the racetrack.

Carbon Fiber Hood for Weight Savings

The benefits of reducing weight apply to production cars, too. Manufacturers, including Porsche, BMW and Chevrolet, are starting to use carbon fiber to manufacture the roofs, hoods and other components of their high-end performance cars. Many performance car enthusiasts, especially those who like to build and modify their vehicles, are eager to reduce the weight of their vehicles in order to improve performance. As such, these enthusiasts will often replace their car’s heavy stock steel hood with a lightweight carbon fiber piece.

Carbon Fiber Hood for Looks

Carbon fiber has recently become a sort of visual shorthand for performance in the automotive world. Faux carbon fiber trim pieces have become a cheap and easy way for car owners to add a sense of sportiness to their vehicles. Hoods are very large and easy to replace, so those looking to make a bigger visual impact will go so far as to add a carbon fiber hood to their vehicle, even if performance is not a priority.

Beyond the Carbon Fiber Hood

More companies are offering more than just carbon fiber hoods as carbon fiber becomes cheaper to shape and manufacture. Companies are now offering wings, fenders, trunk lids and doors made from carbon fiber, and the popularity of these CFRP body pieces is growing.

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