BMW rolls out prototypes of composites-intensive i3, i8

The all-electric i3 and the hybrid-electric i8 are due out in 2013 and 2014 respectively and feature passenger cells molded of carbon fiber composites with fiber from SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers.

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The BMW Group (Munich, Germany) on July 29 introduced the BMW i3 Concept and BMW i8 Concept studies. Unveiled for the first time, these concept vehicles provide a glimpse of the first electrically powered production cars from the new BMW i sub-brand, due to be launched as the BMW i3 in 2013 and the BMW i8 in 2014.

With its zero-emission electric drive and a range of approximately 150 km/93 miles, the BMW i3 Concept has been specifically developed for use in an urban environment, its dynamic 125-kW electric motor and rear-wheel drive ensuring BMW-style dynamic handling. The vehicle features a carbon fiber composite passenger cell that helps keep vehicle weight 1,250 kg/2,756 lb with optimal interior space and the highest crash safety levels. It has four seats and a 200-liter luggage compartment.

“This vehicle will mark the launch of the first volume-produced car featuring bodywork largely made of carbon. It’s a revolution in automotive design,” stressed Klaus Draeger, member of the board responsible for development. The application of this new carbon fiber composite technology allows a weight reduction, compared to a conventional electric car, of between 250 and 350 kg (550 and 770 lb), and that means more dynamic handling coupled with a greater range. The BMW i3 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h sprint in less than 8 seconds, while a high-speed charger achieves an 80 percent battery charge in just an hour.

The BMW i8 Concept goes from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds and boasts fuel consumption of less than 3 liters per 100 km. Its plug-in hybrid drive with a system output of 260 kW allows a range of up to 35 km/22 miles in electric mode – sufficient for most everyday journeys. For more dynamic driving or out-of-town routes, a high-performance three-cylinder gas engine also comes into play. The sports car has an electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h and space for up to four occupants.

Both cars feature a passenger cell made from carbon fiber composites. Carbon fiber is provided by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture of the SGL Group and BMW Group. The fiber will be made a new purpose-build facility in Moses Lake, Wash., USA, and then sent to Germany for weaving, preforming and resin transfer molding.

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