Composite-body BMW i3 starts production

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: September 18, 2013 11:31 am ET
Updated: September 18, 2013 11:44 am ET

Image By: BMW Production of the BMW i3 in Leipzig, Germany.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Sustainability, Composites
Companies & Associations BMW AG

More than a dozen years after BMW AG first introduced a concept car made in carbon fiber composites, it has launched full assembly of its i3 electric vehicle, calling it the first time that carbon fiber has been used in “volume production.”

“Today represents a milestone in our company’s development,” said BMW production chief Harald Krüger during a Sept. 18 ceremony in Leipzig, Germany.

BMW has invested more than 400 million euros ($533 million) in Leipzig alone to support the i3 assembly line. The car not only uses carbon fiber for its body panels, but also is built on a carbon fiber frame.

BMW, based in Munich, Germany, has also invested in key production at both BMW and BMW joint venture operations in Wackersdorf, Landshut and Dingolfing in Germany and Moses Lake, Wash.

Using carbon fiber rather than traditional steel for structures allowed BMW to reduce enough weight to cancel out the weight of the battery packs that power the electric engine in the i3, while still maintaining safety standards.

In a news release, the company also noted that composites will allow the company to produce cars while using 50 percent less energy and 70 percent less water, with the bulk of the environmental savings thanks to eliminating the traditional paint process used for steel or aluminum-bodied cars. The company is also using energy from wind turbines to power its production lines, so buyers will be able to not only point to reduced fossil fuel use in their driving, but also in their car’s manufacturing.

“We are completely redefining sustainability with regard to personal mobility,” Krüger said.

Delivery of the i3 to customers in Europe begins in November while North America and China will begin receiving the cars in early 2014.

To make the cars a reality, BMW had to collaborate with other firms. Its Moses Lake joint venture, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, is a joint venture with SGL Carbon SE, with SGL owning 51 percent of the firm which produces the textile used in the carbon fiber.

BMW also has an agreement with Boeing Co. to work together on developments for carbon fiber manufacturing simulations and automated production. Boeing, based in Seattle, uses carbon fiber throughout its manufacturing, most extensively on the 787 Dreamliner.

The same collaboration is happening throughout the auto industry as it looks for ways to use more advanced composites, said Jai Venkatesan, director of material science and engineering for Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., during the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition in Novi, Mich., Sept. 11-13.

The auto industry has been using more composites to reduce weight, but while there have been some breakthroughs like BMW and General Motor Co.’s use of carbon fiber for the 2014 Corvette, the bulk of the work has been for lower volume cars or smaller parts.

Carbon fiber and other composites are a major change to the standard way of doing things in an auto industry that was built on steel, he said.

The key to major adaption will rely on improvements that will allow molders to bring cycle time from the current rate of about five minutes to less than two, Venkatesan said.

To do that, suppliers must work together to share best practices, which will allow improvements to quickly spread throughout the auto supply base. Dow itself has a collaborative research project with Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. to develop ways to bring faster carbon fiber manufacturing to the market.

“The only way to get through the market with what is seen as a disruptive process is to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate,” he said.


Comments

Composite-body BMW i3 starts production

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: September 18, 2013 11:31 am ET
Updated: September 18, 2013 11:44 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

SPI hopes to build on EPS recycling

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Successfully recycling expanded polystyrene can be a challenge, there's no doubt about that. EPS, however, has value, is in demand and deserves to be ...    More

Image

Pan-European plastics recycling show scheduled for 2015

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Europe is to get its first pan-European exhibition and conference aimed at the region's plastics recycling industry next year.    More

Image

Plastics News Now: Recycling machine dispenses food for stray dogs, cats

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

A PET bottle recycling vending machine is providing food and water for stray dogs and cats, a plastic tire is looking to replace rubber pneumatic...    More

Image

Visteon in talks to sell its stake in Halla Visteon Climate Control JV

November 26, 2014 9:07 am ET

Visteon Corp. confirmed this morning that it is in discussions with a private equity firm to sell its stake in South Korean joint venture Halla...    More

Image

Globalization brings sizable growth, primarily in Asia

November 25, 2014 1:40 pm ET

In 1990, the year after Plastics News published our first issue, there were 33,000 injection molding machines sold worldwide. Fast forward to 2013, an...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events