Imagine a brake rotor that could last the vehicle’s life, improve fuel economy and even reduce stopping distances. You might say this is an impossibility. But, ceramic or carbon composite brake rotors might be on the horizon for more vehicles.
Carbon-ceramic brake discs are formed from specially treated carbon fiber and ceramics. Not only are the resulting discs much harder than standard discs, but they also are more resistant to heat. If you tried to machine these rotors, you would need diamond-tipped bits in your brake lathe.
Ceramic composite brake discs provide a 50% weight-savings compared to conventional metal discs. This reduces unsprung weight, enhances shock-absorber response and vehicle handling and improves fuel efficiency and contributes to reduced emissions.
Ceramic composite brakes have been on the market for almost 15 years. There have been no recalls or lawsuits. With some low-speed noise complaints, OEMs are still reluctant to install them on mass-market hybrid and electric vehicles. For some systems, the replacement costs of four discs and pad may reach more than $10,000; many users have decided to switch back to cast-iron rotors and semi-metallic brake pads.
The future of carbon-ceramic brakes is bright for electric vehicles.
The biggest hurdle for carbon-ceramic brakes to overcome is the time and energy required to manufacture a rotor. One manufacturer said it can take up to 20 days from start to finish. The reason for the lengthy process is that the fiber and resin needs time, pressure and heat to cure. Once these challenges are solved, carbon-ceramic rotors will be as common as steel rotors.