While automaker BMW
currently uses carbon fiber components in cars like the M3, M5 and M6, it will soon begin producing full carbon fiber passenger cells for the i3 electric car
and the i8 plug-in hybrid-electric
The carbon fiber that ultimately forms these cells will be manufactured in a plant built jointly between BMW and SGL Group
in Moses Lake, Washington. Though state-of-the art, BMW still needs to find ways to streamline the carbon fiber component manufacturing process, which would ultimately reduce costs.
As soon as BMW begins selling mainstream vehicles with carbon fiber passenger cells, another issue arises, namely what to do with these assemblies when a vehicle is crash-damaged or reaches the end of its useful life. Unlike metals, carbon fiber has no scrap value, and simply tossing components into a landfill isn’t an environmentally-aware option.
To solve these two problems, BMW has signed a collaboration agreement with aircraft builder Boeing, stating that both companies will work together to share manufacturing knowledge, automate existing processes and develop methods of carbon fiber recycling.
Boeing’s latest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, uses carbon fiber for 50-percent of its construction; hence, developing an end-of-life strategy for the plane’s carbon fiber components is absolutely essential for Boeing. BMW hopes to benefit in this area from Boeing’s existing research.
Citing Boeing’s years of experience using carbon fiber for aviation applications, BMW board member Herbert Diess said, “Boeing for us is a suitable partner for a collaboration in the field of carbon fiber. Through this cooperation we can merge know-how between our industries in the field of sustainable production solutions.”