Local ‘green’ company winning notice
Glenwood-based technology company Fiberforge is trying to reduce oil dependence through aerodynamics ” and syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman is taking notice.
Friedman featured the local company on the Discovery Channel feature, “Addicted to Oil: Thomas L. Friedman Reporting,” which first aired last week. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and author of the best-selling book “The World is Flat.”
In the film, Friedman investigates the relationship between politics, energy consumption and increasing oil prices, featuring Fiberforge in the first few minutes.
Fiberforge develops ways to make automobiles, airplanes and other technology more energy-efficient, explained company co-founder David Cramer. One of the company’s focuses has been on making cars and planes more lightweight.
“Often what we do is change the materials and the design,” Cramer said.
The lighter materials usually require a different structural design because of weight and durability ” carbon fiber can’t just replace steel.
Most vehicles use aluminum and steel in the body and interior, which are sturdy but heavy. Those metals make heavier cars and planes; the more a vehicle weighs, the more fuel it needs to move.
One of the most common changes Fiberforge makes is switching from steel and aluminum to lighter carbon-fiber material. Higher-end cars and Boeing’s latest planes feature carbon-fiber and other lightweight materials, but Cramer said they still have yet to penetrate the entire market.
“It’s still working its way to becoming mainstream,” he said. “You’re not going to see it tomorrow.”
Cramer said it could be a while before cars go all-carbon fiber because they’re so price-sensitive. But eventually the technology will trickle down to every car in a company’s fleet.
The lighter cars have many impacts on energy use. For one, the trucks transporting carbon fiber get better gas mileage because of the lighter loads. The cars with carbon fiber are lighter and also get better mileage.
Plus, carbon fiber makes electric hybrids more of a reality. The lighter the car, the less energy necessary to make it run. That’s why the lighter technologies are so “green.”
“It’s this multiplier effect,” Cramer said.
Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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