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BMW has been making some headlines over the past few months with its commitment to carbon fiber construction, opening a joint-venture production facility in Washington State and teasing the upcoming Megacity EV as the first mass-produced carbon fiber vehicle. But there's always a back story to the headlines.

As you might have guessed, BMW has been toying around with the lightweight construction material for some time, seeing just how far it could push the envelop and what practical applications it could have. In this case, it turns out that, back around 2003, the Bavarian automaker re-constructed a first-gen X5 sport-ute with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) unibody. Every panel on the X5 was replaced with CFRP, save the doors which retained their conventional steel construction. The result was a weight savings of 440 pounds, without – according to BMW – sacrificing structural rigidity and crash-worthiness.

Of course the carbon X5 was never put into production, but it reportedly underwent some 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) of testing, and the knowledge gleaned will surely find its way into BMW's production vehicles in the future.

[Source: BMW Blog]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      We need some economy of scale here. Imagine the impact if GM and Ford had led the industry in this 20 years ago and we were all driving cars/trucks weighing 500 pounds less.

      I'd rather pay for less weight than a more powerful engine to improve performance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why can't we have both?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Panel gaps you could slide a sandwich through. Looks like a '96 Saturn.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Seems like a lot of work and $ for under 500 lbs of weight, I'm sure you could save more than that by removing the "convenience" features
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes you can save weight in "convenience" items, but the TEST was for body panels. Nothing else
      • 5 Years Ago
      I saw this, and all I can think is "wrong car, wrong car, wrong car."

      • 5 Years Ago
      While I understand the need to validate ideas with prototypes, that's the same amount of weight VW/Porsche shaved without the extensive use of expensive to build and ridiculously expensive to repair on a normal production car carbon fiber... Surely BMW has the chops to cut 400ish lens through design ingenuity?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is not about that. You missed the point. They could have shaved the weight where ever they wanted. They were testing the body panels.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Imagine the benefits for eco-friendly cars, like BMW's latest concept car, the Vision Efficient Dynamics car. If this thing can already go 0 - 60 in 4.8 seconds and get 62 mpg - the addition of lightweight carbon fiber construction could propel this car into "green car" history! http://www.coolgizmotoys.com/coolgizmotoys/2010/08/bmw-vision-efficientdynamics-concept-car.html
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think it looks awesome, stock OEM BMW carbon fiber hood and trunk, er carbon fiber hatch I mean. Insane to have a carbon frame, I mean it makes sense, but what if you need to pull it, you just buy a new frame from BMW for $$$, and transfer everything over?! That would be so expensive. http://www.carbonfiberhoods.com
      • 5 Years Ago
      I remember seeing a BMW concept X5 with some insane v-12 and a fiber body back when the 1st gen x5 was only a few years old. Maybe this is the same vehicle.

      here it is:
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the fundamental challenge is to find a way to keep a fender bender from being a total chassis replacement.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Challenge? I'm sure the automakers would love that a minor crash means you buying a whole new car. More sales, more money!

        As it is, the E60's (5-series) front structure is aluminum, and if it gets whacked out of spec, then it's replacement time ... involving lots and lots of labor hours.
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