SEATTLE: BMW has started the ball rolling with the opening of its first carbon fibre plant that will make the lightweight material for its i cars.
The plant in Moses Lake, Washington, is a joint venture between BMW and the SGL Group.
The two parent companies will invest US$100 million in their Moses Lake plant, nearly 300km southeast of here, and create 80 new local jobs until 2013.
To prepare for the large scale production start of the i vehicles in 2013 BMW said it was important to start the carbon fibre production now. All electricity for the production of carbon fibre will come from local hydropower.
Life cycle emission figures for the i3, the first BMW that will have a Carbon Fibre Passenger Cell, are at least a third lower than for a highly efficient combustion-engine car. If the i3 is run on electricity from renewable sources, the figures improve by well over 50%.
BMW expects carbon fibre technology to fundamentally change the car industry, becoming increasingly important in the quest for lighter-weight materials to reduce fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.
The i3 is an all-electric car designed to meet the mobility needs of drivers in highly populated urban areas throughout the world.
Previously known as the Megacity Vehicle, the i3 will be the first BMW with the innovative LifeDrive architecture. The Life module part of the design is the passenger compartment made from high-strength, extremely lightweight carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).
The use of this high-tech material across large sections of the car ensures the Life module is remarkably light helping to improve the i3’s range and performance.
The plant will initially run two carbon fibre lines, each with an annual capacity of 1,500 metric tons.
The Moses Lake carbon fibres will be processed into lightweight carbon fibre fabrics at the second joint venture site in Wackersdorf, Germany.
The carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts and components will be produced from these fabrics at the BMW plant in Landshut, also in Germany. The new i3 will be manufactured from these parts at the BMW Group plant in Leipzig.