BEIJING -- BMW AG, which plans to make extensive use of carbon fiber in its upcoming Megacity electric vehicle, sees wider applications for the super-strong, lightweight material.
“We will be the first manufacturer to take carbon fiber to effectively high volume,” global sales head Ian Robertson said at the Beijing motor show.
Carbon fiber technology shows promise for uses outside of the electric vehicle project, he said. And that could help the venture generate better economies of scale.
The German manufacturer and partner SGL Group plan to build a $100 million carbon fiber manufacturing plant in Washington state to supply parts of the new electric car.
The Washington plant will make the carbon fiber, and a factory in Germany will mold it into paneling for the Megacity Vehicle, which arrives in 2013, Robertson said.
“We are developing a lot of volume technology here,” he said.
Weight savings from carbon fiber in the Megacity nearly compensate for the extra weight of the electric vehicle’s batteries. The material also has excellent crash safety characteristics.
Even though carbon fiber is expensive, its weight savings also generate cost advantages.
“By using carbon fiber, which is a little more expensive but 30 percent lighter, you don’t need as many batteries for the same range,” he said. “There’s a trade-off that actually works.”