The immense amount of resources BMW has poured into its i brand program hasn't stopped, and recent developments indicate it's likely to pay off for BMW and BMW buyers outside the i brand. The i8 has already sold out its first year run, the i3 racked up 10,000 orders before it even went on sale and is already the subject of public discussion about being stretched into an i5, and a new investment in carbon fiber production has the automaker talking about CFRP use in non-i and non-M models.
BMW has been at the forefront of volume automakers looking to invest in carbon fiber technology. The latest development in the German automaker's efforts is in the form of a joint venture with aircraft giant Boeing. According to a joint press release, the two companies will collaborate on further development of the lightweight material, including production methods and carbon fiber recycling.
BMW has just announced that the company will join forces with Seattle-based SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC to build a new manufacturing facility in Moses Lake, Washington. Don't get too excited just yet. The plant won't be cranking out CF bits for your 3 Series so that you can have a roof that looks like the one on your neighbor's M3 (shown above). Instead, BMW says the $100 million facility will be creating carbon-fiber reinforced plastics for the upcoming Megacity vehicle. At the same time,
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.
The idea that BMW's line of electric vehicles will cater to the same premium buyers as the company's other vehicles seems more assured with today's announcement that it has established a joint venture with SGL Group to produce carbon fiber and textile semi-finished products for "vehicle construction" with an eye to getting the lightweight materials into production models, starting with something small and efficient.
New technologies always cost the early adopters big bucks. But higher demand leads to increased supply, and costs eventually go down to the level accessibly by the common man. So while carbon-ceramic brakes might be a big ticket item right now – often dipping into five figures as optional equipment on European exotica – Brembo has formed a new joint venture with carbon-fiber supplier SGL Group with the specific goal of mass-producing the brake technology for widespread application.