2015 BMW i8 construction at Leipzig plantEnlarge Photo
Get ready for carbon fiber construction to become truly mainstream--BMW has announced plans to triple carbon fiber reinforced plastic output at its Moses Lake facility in Washington state.
Currently, the SGL Group plant, a joint venture partner of BMW Group, has the production capacity for around 3,000 tons of carbon fiber per annum. It operates two production lines, dedicated to BMW's i3 and i8 plug-in vehicles--each of which features strong, light-weight CFRP construction. SGL is already working on a third and fourth production line, set to double production to 6,000 tons per year, but a fifth and sixth are on the way, set to triple capacity to 9,000 tons every year.
The extra output won't be reserved exclusively for BMW's i range, though. The German automaker has already announced that several of its future models will use CFRP in their construction, in varying quantities depending on the model. The recent Vision Future Luxury concept, shown at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show, featured widespread use of CFRP--from its unusual shortened B-pillar to its doors and structures under the seats. Expansion at the production facility means BMW can use the material in larger quantities, at more competitive price points. Specific items that are expected to become carbon include wheels, seat frames and instrument panel frames.
"CFRP is a key material for the automotive industry of the 21st century," said Dr. Klaus Draeger, board member for purchasing at BMW AG. "In our endeavor to identify increasingly lightweight materials in order to reduce a vehicle’s weight and thus its fuel consumption and carbon emissions, this material plays a crucial role." SGL has already become the world's largest producer of carbon fiber--with a whole range of BMWs to supply, carbon fiber vehicle construction could soon become as common as aluminum.