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 Sustainability, Automotive, 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

The return of HPM's big presses

December 19, 2014 11:47 am ET

HPM is back in big injection molding machines.    More

Image

Sabic: Rapid demand growth led to Ultem shortage

December 18, 2014 12:06 pm ET

Sabic Innovative Plastics has been increasing production capacity for its Ultem polyetherimide but it still got caught short by increasing demand for ...    More

Auto supplier M-Tek relocating headquarters

December 18, 2014 3:37 pm ET

M-Tek Inc., a subsidiary of Japanese automotive supplier Kasai Kogyo Co. Ltd., will build a new North American corporate headquarters in Murfreesboro,...    More

Image

Soy-based foam improves window performance, sustainability

December 18, 2014 12:51 pm ET

Launched in April 2013, Madison, Wis.-based WFI Global LLC is making a name in the fenestration market with what it says is a distinct product...    More

Image

Europe puts its 'Circular Economy' recycling effort on hold, for now

December 18, 2014 12:28 pm ET

The European Commission has withdrawn its Circular Economy initiative from its 2015 work program, and will instead replace it with “a new, more ...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

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

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