August 14, 2014 / 8:49 AM / 5 years ago

S.Korea's GS Caltex eyes talks with Tesla on carbon fiber supply-source

SEOUL, Aug 14 (Reuters) - South Korea’s GS Caltex plans to talk with U.S. electric carmaker Tesla Motors about supplying its carbon fiber for vehicles, an industry source familiar with the matter told Reuters, as automakers turn increasingly towards lightweight materials to cut weight and raise fuel economy.

GS Caltex also plans to supply its “long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (LFRT)” to Kia Motors for the sunroof frame of its Sorento sport utility vehicle due to be launched late this month, the source said on condition of anonymity because the matter was not public.

That would make the Sorento the first mass-market vehicle to use the lightweight material, the person added.

“GS Caltex and Tesla officials plan to meet late this month to discuss carbon fiber supply. It is still in an initial stage,” the source said.

Currently, carbon fiber usage is limited to high-end vehicles like BMW’s i3 electric cars and racing cars, partly because of its expense. The material can reduce the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent.

Automakers, under pressure to improve fuel economy, are increasingly looking at replacing conventional steel with lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aluminium.

The source did not elaborate on which vehicles and parts for which Tesla model may use carbon fiber.

A GS Caltex spokesman declined to comment. A spokeswoman at Tesla declined to comment on whether it plans to use carbon fiber in future vehicles, while a Kia Motors spokesman was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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