BMW to Introduce Carbon Fiber Components to Reduce Weight

bmw-carbonfiber

It’s been well known that BMW was dabbling in carbon fiber wheels and that we’d eventually see them on cars such as the i8. What we didn’t know was when we’d see them across the model range. Auto Express had a chance to speak with a few folks at BMW who shed light on the companies plans.

BMW’s first order of business, once the i3 and i8 production is up and running is to began the process of filtering down this new carbon fiber technology to other products within the BMW Group. Given that BMW’s Moses Lake Wasthington carbon fiber plant is planning to double in size (all while remaining 100% hydro-electrically powered) you’d expect there would be greater opportunity for a brand like MINI to take advantage.

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To begin with, BMW is either putting into production or investigating production for things like a full carbon fibre steering wheel, a one-piece carbon fibre propeller shaft (already seen in the new M3/M4) and a new carbon-plastic compound that is light and strong, made from i3 production waste.

BMW has two approaches when it comes to using CF for wheels. The first and lightest (and surely most expensive) is a full carbon fiber wheel that is a full 35% lighter than a standard alloy wheel. But BMW also has a hybrid approach that combines an alloy center with a carbon surround. While not has light as the full CF version, it’s still 25% lighter than a comparable alloy wheel. And as we all know, savings unsprung mass the first thing you’ll want to do in making a car faster and more efficient.

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At this point the only hold-up is getting EU and US regulators to approve the new materials for something as crucial to safety as wheel design. When will we see something like this on a MINI? Costs will be prohibitive for years but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a hybrid CF/alloy wheel by the time the fourth generation MINI debuts in 2020

Read more including concerns of everyday durability over at Auto Express.

  • http://about.me/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

    That steering wheel is beautiful! It’s nice to see BMW able to make the steering wheel attractive again after years of bulbous designs to allow for airbag equipment.

  • joe

    I’ve been saying for the longest time that what MINI should do with the GP is utilize more CF. I love the GP (gen 1 and 2), and it would make for the ultimate hot hatch in my book. But the idea of giving up the rear seats does take away from it’s awesome factor. BMW has been ding CF roofs since the CSL and I can’t see how something like that wouldnt help the F56 GP. I’d also like to see CF make it to the hood, boot and with the posibility of it making it to the wheels, unsprung weight could really be improved.

    Am i sounding too optimistic? I’m affraid I am lol.

    • John

      I think the issue is the price of what the consumer will pay. Would you pay $50K+ for a JCW or GP?

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        That’s the point of mass manufacturing of – lower price-points.

        • joe

          that’s what I was getting at. I was thrilled in 2010 when BMW invested a great deal in SGL and now we are starting to see the fruits that relationship can bear. Truth be told, I could care less about CF accessories.

        • John

          At this point, a full carbon fiber roof costs more than a metal one, same goes with rims and other parts (like CF vs plastic trims). People already say the JCW is too expensive, adding these parts will only increase the cost even if it is mass produced.

  • lawrothegreat

    Through ignorance I didn’t realise a big weight saving is to be made through steering wheels! Or is this a marketing ploy to get consumers used to the material? I’m not a material expert but presumably most metals exhibit a plastic deformational response at failure whereas CFRPs would remain stiff and just fracture? However I’m sure a carbon fibre steering wheel will be massively over engineered unless you opt for one or two layers of fibre.

    • GoRixter

      It’s just a gimmick. As a road cyclist, I see huge sums spent trying to save 200-500 grams from a CF bike. It costs a lot less and is more beneficial to have a few less pops/beers and chips each week and loose the weight that way. Even if you still wanted your chips and dip, just take the owners manual out of the glovebox and leave it at home. As far as wheels saving 35%, big deal! There are lots of decent wheels out there that cost less than the stock BBS, that would also save weight and cost a fraction of CF to replace if damaged.