• Nov 2, 2009
Now that steel and aluminum are vying for top billing as the metal of choice in Automobile Land, carbon fiber is often considered the next logical step towards reducing the prodigious weight of today's cars and trucks – especially for high performance and eco-friendly vehicles. The problem, though, is that the material is still prohibitively expensive and difficult to work with for mass production.

In an effort to get a leg up on the competition, BMW has just announced that it has paired up with SGL Group to produce carbon fiber and textile semi-finished products for "vehicle construction... to install [carbon fiber reinforced plastic] on a large scale in a series vehicle at a competitive cost." Though the material is already used in small-scale models like the M6 Coupe, BMW says its upcoming Megacity car will be the first model to employ CFRP in "significant proportions."

The initial investment of 90 million euros will see two separate companies formed – one in North America and one in Germany – and BMW's goal is manage the entire process from creation of the carbon fibers using clean hydropower to weaving them into fabrics in Germany and, finally, recycling the material to ensure environmental sustainability. Hit the jump to read more from the official press release.

[Source: BMW]

PRESS RELEASE

BMW Group establishes joint venture with SGL Group

Cooperation for the manufacture and processing of carbon fibres for new vehicle concepts

Munich/Wiesbaden. The BMW Group and the SGL Group have agreed on the establishment of a joint venture for the production of carbon fibres and textile semi-finished products (CFRP) for use in vehicle construction. The total investment volume is € 90 million in the first development phase, the two companies stated on Thursday.

The joint venture will be operated through two companies, one based in North America (SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC), and the other in Germany (SGL Automotive Fibers GmbH & Co KG). The BMW Group holds 49. The two groups will be equally represented in the management of the two companies; major corporate decisions must be made unanimously by both partners. The joint venture will initially create around 180 new jobs in North America and Germany. Its establishment is subject to approval by the cartel authorities.

"This joint venture is designed to be a classic win-win situation. We are acquiring pioneering future technologies and raw materials that we need for our Megacity Vehicle on competitive terms. The SGL Group is moving into the automobile business with us as a strong partner", BMW AG Management Board Chairman Norbert Reithofer emphasised in Munich. "With our concepts within project i, we are breaking new ground when it comes to vehicle architecture, lightweight design and the use of materials", Reithofer continued.

Robert Koehler, CEO of the SGL Group, stated: "This joint venture with the BMW Group is a milestone for the use of carbon fibres on an industrial scale in the automobile industry. For the first time, carbon fibres are taking on an important role in series vehicle manufacture. This confirms our strategy and shows that carbon fibre technology is becoming increasingly important in the materials substitution process to lighter material. This material will help to reduce CO2 emissions and save our natural resources".

Lightweight design has been one of the core skills of the BMW Group for decades – after all, reducing weight is a major factor in cutting fuel consumption. In the use of high-tech Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), the company is also able to draw on its many years of experience. CFRP not only plays an important role in motor sports; the material is also used in series vehicles, such as in the roof of the BMW M6 Coupé.

In the Megacity Vehicle, which will be launched under a BMW sub-brand in the first half of the next decade, the high-strength yet ultra-light material will make up a significant proportion of the materials used. The combination of the advanced CFRP fibres developed by the SGL Group and the BMW Group's expertise in the industrial manufacture of CFRP components is making it possible, for the first time, to install CFRP on a large scale in a series vehicle at a competitive cost.

With the joint venture, the BMW Group is underlining its position as the most sustainable vehicle manufacturer. This claim is reflected throughout the entire value creation chain, from component purchasing to recycling. Producing CFRP in a way that protects resources is therefore a high priority. The high energy requirement for the production of carbon fibres is to be met completely by environmentally friendly hydropower. This is one of the preconditions for the production site of carbon fibres in North America. The raw material is then processed into a carbon fibre fabric at the second location in Germany. Parts and components will then be made from this light-weight durable fabric within the BMW Group
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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      "In an effort to get a leg up on the competition," ----i am sure Honda has been the leader in this field for a while.


      To me this makes perfect sense, i think automakers should invest in carbon fiber tech rather than ethanol research which will ultimately require action by oil industry, government, farmers, logistic companies, all auto and truck makers and everyone else. I really think GM burned millions of dollars down the hole by spending all that money on ethanol research rather than concentrating on CF, which they can produce themselves and use, regardless of what anyone else does.

      Also government should increase research in CF, rather than throwing money at ethanol and other BS projects.
      Carlos
      • 5 Years Ago
      Carbon Fiber is the next logical step but there is still a lot of potential for metals as the material of choice for vehicle construction. Porsche for example still uses steel as the primary material for their chassis in the 911 and it is relatively light in comparison.

      I also for see a large problem with repairs and recycling. Metals can be heated up and reshaped in a collision, carbon fiber cannot. Metals are easier to recycle too

      It will be great to see carbon fiber more in mass production but long term issues still need to be addressed before it can come to the masses.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Cost is a big issue...but lighter means you need less power so they may save some money there. I would think weight and material are at the top of the list in the R&D departments?
      • 5 Years Ago
      E92 M3 coupe.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hello , Gent:

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      JDM Life
      • 5 Years Ago
      I believe Lexus and their development of the LF-A has something to do with this...
      JDM Life
      • 5 Years Ago
      I believe Lexus and their development of the LF-A has something to do with this....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Can it be recycled?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Probably not current CF, because it is made from oil, i am sure down the road we will learn how to do that.


        I read somewhere that the most recycled product in the world is steel.
        • 5 Years Ago
        CF can be made from plant waste such as corn, wheat,grass. It was developed by a research team at the University of Bangor Wales. It was fully recyclable.
        It had a problem initially of absorbing to much moisture but they apparently overcame that.