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.
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.
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.