BERLIN BMW AG will cocoon passengers in a battery-powered city car in the same lightweight material used to protect Formula One drivers.
BMW will use the fabric to construct a passenger-safety cell for the small electric vehicle. It's the auto industry's biggest bet so far on carbon fiber.
The combined use of carbon fiber and aluminum will offset as much as 772 pounds of additional weight from battery and electronic components, said Klaus Draeger, BMW's development chief.
BMW's carbon fiber for the vehicle will be spun at a $100 million factory near Seattle that the Munich manufacturer is building with partner SGL Carbon SE. The fibers, composed of 50,000 filaments that are one-seventh as thick as a human hair, will be made into fabrics and then hardened into components at plants in Germany.
BMW is turning to carbon fiber to reduce the size and cost of the battery needed to run the car.
The city vehicle, which will be available in 2013, will be powered by a 96-cell lithium ion power pack.