Gas prices are up, emission requirements have become more stringent, and vehicle weights have increased in the past years; which is not a good combination. Increased efficiency without sacrificing performance is the name of the automotive game going forward in the 21st century. A big step towards this goal is reducing the weight of vehicles.
BMW says the answer is carbon fiber technology, which it believes will fundamentally change the car industry, becoming increasingly important in the quest for lighter-weight materials to reduce fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions. For that reason, the company started the joint venture with SGL Group
to take the carbon fiber production process mass scale.
Although we've seen carbon fiber roofs on some BMW M models, the upcoming BMW i3 and i8 electric and hybrid electric cars will be the first BMW cars featuring carbon fiber as a key construction material. The use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) will then flow down to future mainstream models, beginning with the next generation 7 series
BMW R&D chief Klaus Draeger, the next gen 7 series (due in 2015-2016) will be the first mainstream BMW model to utilize CFRP as a key construction material. The next 7 series' structure will probably be a mix of traditional materials (aluminum/steel) and CFRP, with the roof, hood, and trunk lid also possibly made from CFRP.
SGL-BMW Carbon Fiber Manufacturing Process
Below are some past videos featuring BMW's carbon fiber manufacturing process, including some views into SGL-BMW's Moses Lake, Washington plant, among other plants involved in the process. BMW set out to create a new infrastructure for carbon-fiber auto manufacturing covering everything from the material to the final product, and in the process open the door for wider use of the material. The company's goal is to bring down the cost of carbon fiber to be competitive with aluminum, making it a viable and common material for widespread use in its cars.
BMW i3 to Be World's First Volume-Produced Car with Passenger Cell Made from Carbon
BMW i3 will be the world's first volume-produced car with the passenger cell made from carbon fiber.