Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation’s carbon fiber sheet molding compound (SMC) is being used for the door and luggage room inner panels of the new Lexus LC500 and LC500h luxury coupes, which Toyota Motor Corporation launched this March.
In line with tightening fuel efficiency regulations and carbon dioxide emission controls, the automotive industry is showing increasing interest in vehicle weight reduction, and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) that combines lightweight with high strength is expected to find application in automotive components.
The SMC developed by MCC is a type of intermediate material for CFRPs, and a sheet-shaped material in which carbon fibers cut into several-centimeter lengths are dispersed in resin. This SMC can be processed into components in a short period of time, i.e. roughly 2 to 5 minutes, by press molding. In contrast to prepreg intermediate materials (uncut carbon fiber fabric impregnated with resin), SMC features high formability for molding parts with complicated shapes. It also exhibits close-to-uniform mechanical properties, which allow engineers to readily use the carbon fiber material with existing parts design know-how and achieve lighter components with higher strength.
MCC’s SMC has been adopted for the new Lexus coupes because its advantages have earned high recognition from Toyota. These advantages include substantial reduction of vehicle weight, great component performance and excellent formability that enables the production of components having complicated shapes.
The new Lexus LC500 and LC500h are the second round of Toyota vehicles that use MCC’s SMC following the first round in which SMC was used for the rear door frame of the new Prius PHV.