Composite materials have long been the go-to source for shaving weight from high-performance vehicles because of their impressive strength to weigh ratio. Carbon fiber is used in everything from body panels to interior pieces, but now through advancements in technology, you can even use carbon fiber as a part of your driveline via a carbon fiber driveshaft and use it to unlock hidden performance potential.
To gain a better understanding of what goes into making a carbon fiber driveshaft and the advantages they present we talked with Dave Kass from QA1. Most people associate QA1 as a manufacturer of quality suspension components, but they moved into the driveshaft business several years ago with a unique approach to creating a lightweight carbon unit.
Kass reveals that a big part of how QA1 is able to design and manufacture a composite driveshaft that can take a ton of abuse is through owning the process from start to finish. Everything is done in-house at QA1 and that allows them to make sure a balance can be struck between the critical speed and torque the driveshaft can handle.
“Being able to select the proper materials as well as the best angles for the fiber to be aligned in the tube is critical in making a strong driveshaft that will withstand high speeds. Basically, we change the weave and/or wind pattern to adjust for various applications like drag racing, circle track racing, and high-horsepower street cars,” Kass says.
There are countless ways you can create a tube to be used for a carbon fiber driveshaft and it all begins at QA1 with a computer model. That validated model is used to assist in predicting how the different materials might perform and how different angles will work in the carbon fiber as part of a driveshaft. Before any carbon is spun, QA1 will calculate the critical speed for the driveshaft so they know it will work with the amount of horsepower and torque a customer will throw at it.
“Once a tube design is determined, a prototype is made and tested for strength and durability using in-house torsion testing and critical speed measuring equipment. We control the quality and design throughout the manufacturing process with special equipment, including a carbon fiber filament winding machine, torsion tester, and balancer. In addition, all driveshafts are manufactured to the SFI 43.1 standard,” Kass explains.
Now, some might be leery of using a carbon fiber driveshaft because it’s made of several parts. To address that issue QA1 worked with several different companies to develop a resin and structural adhesive to eliminate any issues. Their 11-step proprietary bonding process holds the tube yoke to the carbon fiber tube so tightly that when tested torsionally, the U-joint is actually the first failure point.
There are still common misconceptions about carbon fiber driveshafts out there and Kass explains why these can be put to rest.
“The most common misconception is that carbon fiber driveshafts will not stand up to high-performance applications. With older technology, that may have been true; most driveshafts were manufactured with sub-standard materials and essentially were made using a tube-and-glue method. Because we control every step of the manufacturing process, wind our own carbon fiber tube for given applications, and perform countless testing with all levels of drag racing and countless laps on asphalt and dirt circle track racing, I truly believe we have disproven any misconceptions about our driveshaft performance.”
So, how can a carbon fiber driveshaft help a car’s driveline that’s making big horsepower? There are several different ways; one of the biggest is the efficiency upgrade it can offer a driveline. There are so many parts being used in a driveline that lower resistance that includes gun-drilled axles to lightweight transmission parts. A carbon fiber driveshaft fits into that ecosystem by lowering the overall rotating mass of the driveline.
Kass adds some additional information as to how a carbon fiber driveshaft can increase performance.
“Depending on the tube design, composite driveshafts can have a relatively soft torsional spring rate that will absorb torque spikes to the rest of the driveline components. This is beneficial for driveline component durability as well as reduced torque spikes to the rear tires during launch and shift points. This all results in increased traction and lower E.T. and 60-foot times.”
So the next time you’re thinking about upgrading some driveline parts don’t overlook the idea of using a carbon fiber driveshaft. Selecting the right unit will help all the horsepower being created by your engine reach the rear tires quicker and in a more efficient manner and that will lead to more smiles every time you smash the gas pedal to the floor.