McLaren orders carbon monocoques

2 min read

McLaren Automotive has ordered what is claimed to be the world’s largest purchase of series-production carbon monocoques from Carbo Tech. The monocoques will be introduced on a range of McLaren’s high-performance sports cars from 2011.

The order, which amounts to €150m (£127m), will result in investment in a new production facility at the company’s Salzburg site. Up to 100 new jobs will be generated in construction of the new facility and in manufacturing the carbon-fibre-based monocoque.

Carbo Tech will manufacture the McLaren-designed carbon chassis (the Monocell) for series-production models of a new generation of McLaren Automotive road cars over the next eight years, making this the world’s largest carbon-fibre order for series-production cars.

Motor-racing company McLaren Automotive was the first to introduce carbon ‘tubs’ into motorsport and road cars.

The first series of Carbo Tech CRP (carbon-fibre-reinforced) components will form the chassis of the McLaren MP4-12C, the first of McLaren Automotive’s new generation of high-performance sports cars.

The 12C, and all future McLaren sports cars, will be of a lightweight monocoque design. ‘Our clear advantage over the competition was our ability to produce large carbon-fibre components in series for McLaren’s cars to McLaren’s design. Our skill at industrialising what has traditionally been a very labour-intensive process was decisive,’ said Karl Wagner, chief executive and chief technology officer of Carbo Tech.

’Working with McLaren Automotive in taking this fundamental engineering step in carbon-fibre engineering and production will, we believe, enable carbon technology to establish itself ever more in motor-vehicle production. Carbon has now achieved the breakthrough into industrial production.’

Monocoques are one-piece passenger cells for cars made from carbon fibre. They are viewed as better alternative automotive material because they are lightweight and therefore reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the vehicle, while at the same time offering strength, structural rigidity and engineering predictability, resulting in better driving dynamics.

During the development programme for the 12C, McLaren had been on a global search for a suitable supplier. The unit cost alongside the series production capability was also key to McLaren Automotive’s decision on Carbo Tech.

‘We have now developed an in-house technology that allows us to offer our monocoques at far more economical cost,’ explained Dr Ernst Wustinger, chief financial officer for Carbo Tech AG. Carbo Tech has also protected its special technology with patents.

The carbon monocoque in the 12C, which weighs less than 80kg, has passed all crash-test requirements for series-production vehicles necessary for street homologation.

In order to manage this groundbreaking order, Carbo Tech has built a production facility at its Salzburg site. Up to 4,000 monocoques a year will be manufactured in the 3,500m2 production hall over the next eight years. Much of the facility (2,500m2) will be used for production; the rest is planned for engineering and logistics.  

In the coming years up to 2014, Carbo Tech will take on around 100 employees to handle the order.