BMW is partnering with carbon-fiber and composites expert SGL Group to build a new manufacturing plant in Moses Lake, Washington that will specialize in lightweight carbon-fiber products for the automotive industry--BMW's upcoming Megacity vehicle. For those who don’t know, the Megacity vehicle, which will be launched under a sub-brand during the first half of this decade, will employ a vast array of lightweight composite materials to enable its super-low emissions goals.
Costing more than $100 million and creating some 80 local jobs, the new plant will ensure that a key piece of the Megacity vehicle has a base in North America. The decision to locate the plant at Moses Lake was in line BMW and SGL Group’s sustainable business strategy--the plant will be able to use the city’s renewable clean hydropower.
The production of carbon-fiber involves several work stages. The raw material needed to manufacture carbon-fibers, a polyacrylonitrile based precursor, will be produced by a joint venture between SGL Group and Japanese firm Mitsubishi Rayon in Otake, Japan. In the next step, the facility in Moses Lake will convert the polyacrylic fibers into the actual carbon-fibers. These fibers are then processed into light weight carbon-fiber fabrics at a second joint venture site in Wackersdorf, Germany. The carbon-fiber parts and components for the cars will then be made from these fabrics at a BMW plant in Landshut, Germany. The assembly of the actual Megacity vehicle, meanwhile, will take place at another BMW plant in Leipzig, also in Germany.
BMW is, of course, no stranger to carbon fiber, having employed its use extensively in motorsports as well as its M Division vehicles, like the M6 pictured above, over the years.