BMW bets on carbon fibre bodies for future cars

The future of BMW is carbon fiber and BMW group is betting big on it with its all-carbon fiber body structure starting with BMW i3. Back in the 1990s, it was Audi A8 that came up with aluminum space frame substituting most of the structural steel parts. A way forward for automotive body structure was showcased by Audi in German motor show. Aluminum alloys then started finding their way in modern automotive systems and the trend is changing soon.

2014 BMW i3 carbon fibre frame

2014 BMW i3 carbon fiber frame

What is Carbon Fiber in BMW i3?

The material which is thinner than a human hair and tougher than steel will eventually be seen in future automobiles and the material is carbon fiber. The latest vehicle by BMW is i3 that uses all-carbon fiber frame to take structural components load and it is 20% lighter than its category vehicle Nissan Leaf. Yes, we are talking about electric cars here. With CAFE norms getting stringent, it was not only for the US market but something revolutionary was needed for European market too to go ahead in the next level architecture. BMW has already made a brave move by considering all-carbon fiber structure 6 years ago. BMW i3 recently launched in Germany on 16th of November will also see American shores in the first half of 2014. The company sees it as a long term strategy and it’s surely a commendable move to make a series production carbon fiber car frame.

2014 BMW i3 front grille

2014 BMW i3 front grille

Most of the materials and technology in automobiles are derived from formula one cars and jumbo jets research where each gram of weight is crucially important for performance. Cabon fiber is one of those technologies and many manufacturers are already using it for some parts of their vehicles such as seat panels, door trims, and center consoles. The parts are limited in numbers and there is a serious reason behind it, the carbon fiber cost. Roughly carbon fiber is 20 times more expensive than steel and 15 times expensive than aluminum, but as far as weight is concerned, it’s way lighter than aluminum. The composition of carbon fiber in layers decides its weight and the composition changes from structure to structure. Just for a comparison, a bicycle frame made of aluminum will be 30% heavier than that of carbon fiber frame.

A few years ago BMW went alone and did a strong move in hydrogen combustion engines but the trend of industry did not follow BMW. BMW claims that they are making a profit out of BMW i3. We appreciate the brave move by BMW moving to lighter and stronger materials for environment-friendly cars. All we know is that the future of automobile industry is greener and cleaner.

2014 BMW i3 gallery

Source: Businessweek

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