In an effort to continue trimming weight on its future models, Audi is pioneering a new spring design that is made of fiberglass-reinforced polymer. The springs were created with help from an Italian parts company and will first launch in a future midsize model that Audi says will be one of its “upper” vehicles. The debut will take place in the latter part of 2014.
Spotting the new springs will be pretty easy. They will not only be green but will also feature a slightly larger diameter. If that’s not enough, the design also calls for fewer coils. Each spring will weigh only 3.5 pounds, making it about 40 percent lighter than a comparable steel spring. At the core are glass fibers that are twisted together and then impregnated with an epoxy resin for additional strength. More glass fibers are wrapped around that core, with a machine laying those strands over the core at alternating plus and minus 45 degree angles. The entire assembly is then baked at 212 degrees for the final curing process.
According to Audi, the springs can be tuned for different applications, providing optimal performance. The low weight isn’t the only advantage of the fiberglass-reinforced polymer construction. The springs will not corrode ever, even when they are chipped by stones on the road. Chemicals like wheel cleaners also will not harm the material. The manufacturing process is supposed to be greener. The most important of the benefits of the new green springs if that they are supposed to increase the car’s responsiveness and “enhance vibrational comfort” for passengers.
Using composite materials for vehicle suspensions isn’t a new concept, but at the moment it’s unknown if Audi’s design will present some unique performance advantages not previously seen.