In the mid-1990s, David Foster Wallace wrote Infinite Jest, a massive, 900+ page book that challenges readers to this day. Completing the book is a wonderful reward for the literature lovers who do slog through the book and all its 100 pages of footnotes, but it's not an easy task. We were reminded of this challenge when we came across a series of lengthy videos showing how the BMW i3 is made. The images are clear and pretty, but there is very little narration or on-screen graphics to tell us what is going on. It's most certainly not exciting video we've ever seen – or even close to it – but there is a mesmerizing quality to watching the people and robots (mostly robots, which makes sense) build these cars. BMW started i3 production earlier this month.

All told, the four clips on YouTube add up to 75 minutes (we'll admit to not watching every second) of detail shots of the i3 getting pieced together. Starting with Part One, which is all about the carbon fiber that is made in Moses Lake, WA that is shipped over to Germany for assembly into the i3, as well as battery assembly and the assembly of the drive module. Part Two shows the assembly of the electronic transmission, the electric engine construction and the cockpit and dashboard moulding. Part Three includes the body pressing, assembly, and painting. And, logically, Part Four showcases the final assembly. If you've got the time and the interest, you can find all four parts of the video, produced by Test Driven, below. If you get the howling fantods halfway through, don't blame us. Just watch this to cleanse the palette.









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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      Excellent videos. I hope the i3 does well for BMW. The 22 kWh pack is huge in size. That's just not a lot of batteries but the pack is the entire floor pan and it is about 10" deep. I'm really not trying to knock the i3 but the Model S 85 kWh pack seems to be about the same volume and it stores 4 times the energy. Here's a picture for comparison: http://www.teslamotors.com/models/features#/safety The Leaf's 24 kWh pack seems a lot smaller too. http://www.nissanusa.com/electric-cars/leaf/charging-range/ Confusing. Well best of luck, BMW.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        Here is a pic of the BMW i3 battery pack: http://www.wallpaper.com/galleryimages/17052576/gallery/10_bmw_i3_and_i8_tl020811.jpg It takes up much of the wheelbase and is thicker, but presumably the wheelbase of the Tesla is a lot longer. I can't be bothered to look up the figures. Even so, Tesla certainly seems to have the drop on BMW for the battery pack. On the bright side, as more energy dense batteries become available to BMW they should be able to greatly increase the range without redesign. I think that it is in anticipation of that that BMW only put in a small petrol tank and RE. If they can hit something like 200 mile in the MkII, good enough.
          MTN RANGER
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          It is entirely reasonable with new technology like Envia, that BMW could upgrade the pack in 2017/18 with double the range.
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        It is a LOT smaller and lighter than the Tesla pack. The difference in size of the two vehicle kind of distorts the proportions. 450lb vs 1200lb.... However, the batteries in the Tesla do have a higher energy density, but are rated for less charge cycles due to the difference in chemistry...
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jeff
          Thanks for the info.
          George Betak
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jeff
          Yes, Tesla's battery pack is about 40% more energy dense. It just looks thinner and more compact, because it fills the base of a much larger vehicle. The i3 is tiny by comparison. That said, there is a difference in chemistry. Both batteries are lithium ion, but they use slightly different materials and composition. It's like baking a chocolate cake, but using different recipes and aiming at different density (chewiness). That said, the chemistry Tesla uses is more volatile, and requires a temperature management system. BMW uses a more benign chemistry, but this one is actually more susceptible to ambient heat, and a TMS is required also, but for different reasons. It's there to prolong life of the battery, whereas in the Tesla it's needed for safety reasons first, and for life extension second. The cycle life of the Tesla pack should be better too, and due to the inherent properties of the chemistry and materials used. All this can be confusing, and I hope I didn't miss anything. Fascinating topic, but it's easy to get it wrong. It's a bit like alchemy. Nobody has the prefect solution right now. They keep tinkering with the ingredients, and try to compromise in different ways.
      PeekOyle
      • 1 Year Ago
      Good on BMW for going down the EV path. But damn if that car aint ugly.
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @PeekOyle
        I can see why some do not like it, but I think it looks great...
      amtoro
      • 1 Year Ago
      The entertainment factor of the videos depends on who you ask; for a mechanical engineer, they are like candy!
      DarylMc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Thankyou BMW and ABG Perhaps the most interesting videos I have ever watched. There is one thing which keeps being brought up which I did not think was right. In the videos the carbon fibres seemed to come from USA which is great. But it was woven and the body manufactured in Germany as far I could tell. Best to clarify it before someone starts complaining about shipping car bodies back and forth around the world.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DarylMc
        That is exactly what happens. And the manufacture starts in Japan! 'When the German firm introduces the i series cars in 2013, they will contain carbon fiber drawn from a production line that stretches from PAN synthesis in Otake, Japan, to fiber production in Moses Lake, Wash., and woven preform manufacturing in Wackersdorf, Germany. SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, BMW’s joint venture with SGL, has invested about $135 million so far in the facilities, according to Andreas Wuellner, one of two managing directors of the venture. Both sides will benefit, Wuellner explains. SGL gets to deepen its involvement in the industrial carbon fiber sector, and BMW gets an ensured supply of fiber and textile preforms for car parts. The carbon fiber composite parts that BMW will manufacture in Landshut, Germany, will be 50% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum, Wuellner says. The supply chain is long and a bit complex, Wuellner admits, but it has certain advantages. SGL joined with Mitsubishi Rayon, an established maker of PAN and carbon fiber, to build the Otake PAN plant. It will supply feedstock for the Moses Lake fiber plant, which will run on low-cost, renewable hydroelectric power. Transportation costs and environmental impact will be kept under control, he says, by shipping materials by boat and rail each step of the way from Japan to Germany. Overall, the partners say, the emissions of the all-electric BMW i3, from manufacturing to the end of its life, will be one-third less than those of a comparable vehicle with a high-efficiency internal combustion engine. If the car were to consume electricity solely from hydropower or photovoltaic sources, emissions would be 50% less, they assert. ' https://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/89/8939cover.html
          DarylMc
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Perhaps I should have been more clear. The article wrongly states that the car body is made in USA then and shipped to Germany. No big deal but it is not the first time I read it here.
          ABG Sebastian
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Thanks for the clarification.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          HI Sebastian I see that has been fixed. Nice work.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          And thanks for that link and info DaveMart
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      This series makes me feel sorry for Dan Frederiksen, for his pathological inability to understand how truly complicated automobile manufacture actually is. He can only focus on "lightweight" and "aerodynamic", without being able to comprehend all the multitude of other aspects that must be taken into consideration. Enough said about the wags - this is an amazing series to watch! Thanks ABG, *this* is the kind of real engineering stuff I'd like to see more of, and less of the political crap.
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        The man has issues which is why he was removed from the comments - again. When he isn't ranting he can occasionally make good points. Every once in a while he can be very funny too. Maybe he will come back again. The videos are exceptional in showing the detail and complexity.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          I think Giza/Dan will be back, if he doesn't get help he will be easy to ID. I agree he was occasionally funny and on topic, I wish him well (and all ABG ers) and hope he gets help though. :-)
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          As I said, I feel sorry for him. BMW, OTOH, is sharing with us a truly amazing view into an otherwise closed process.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          Yes, he is occasionally funny, and makes good points... but he can be just as often an hateful bigot. Which is why he takes his little 'vacations'.
        paulwesterberg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Carbon fiber is lightweight... Investments in high capacity production will enable BMW to create more efficient vehicles. So the engineers at BMW are working to make Dan's vision a reality.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          I offer this correction: "So the engineers at BMW are working to make *BMW's* vision a reality." Dan Frederiksen has very little connection to reality, much less to an actual vision of what the future of automotive transportation will be. Give credit where credit is due, BMW is building their vision. Dan barely made a website to illustrate his hypothetical soapbox racer.
      jeff
      • 1 Year Ago
      I really like the BMW i3.... I think it is the best EV you can get under $45K. The low center of gravity and tight turning circle should make it fun to drive around town. I look forward to test driving one next year. If it drives well, ill probably get one... (without range extending ICE in my case) Can't wait...
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Complexity, BMW is thy name. If only it hadn't been hit w/an ugly stick. Very impressed w/assembly process
        George Betak
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        The car makes a much better impression in person. The photos don't do the exterior enough justice.
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