BMW offers sneak peek at the Megacity electric vehicle

BMW Group has released the first sketches of the composites-intensive Megacity Vehicle, an all-electric three-door car that is expected to feature a carbon fiber cockpit structure. The car is expected to enter the market in 2013.

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News outlets ranging from autoblogs to The New York Times recently lit up the Internet with the first images and hard news about automaker BMW’s much anticipated electric car, the Megacity Vehicle (MCV). According to a July 1 Times report written by reporter Jack Ewing, BMW officials spoke during the last week of June to a small group of automotive journalists during a two-day briefing at a car plant near its headquarters in Munich, Germany. The Auto Channel Web site’s European senior editor Henny Hemmes reported on July 2 that BMW revealed some MCV details. BMW’s Ulrich Kranz, director of Project i — the program that began in 2007 to produce the all-electric urban car — was quoted as saying that the new electric vehicle (EV) will probably be marketed under a new nameplate and introduced for zero-emission models. The new brand will be released in first-quarter 2011 at the earliest. As reported by Hemmes, the MCV will have a unique “LifeDrive” structure: An aluminum spaceframe (to absorb crash energy) protects a carbon composite passenger cabin structure that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, 50 percent lighter than steel, and has other advantages such as durability and crash resistance. Furthermore, it can be easily repaired.

BMW also revealed that one Megacity prototype structure has been crash-tested from three different positions: two in accordance with EuroNCAP regulations and one under U.S. side-impact rules. After the testing, the passenger cell was still intact, confirming the integrity of the composite structure.

The lithium-ion battery pack will be placed in the bottom structure of the car, with the electric drive unit in the rear. Kranz confirmed that the lightweight design will compensate for the extra weight of the battery. Hemmes calculates that the car will weigh about 1,200 kg/2,645 lb, at an approximate length of 3.925m/155 inches. Although a Megacity concept likely will be on display at the Frankfurt auto show in September 2011, the production version will not be on the road before 2013.

CT reported in June that BMW and SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) recently had formed a joint venture under which carbon fibers made in the U.S. at a new plant in Moses Lake, Wash., will be used exclusively to create the MCV’s cockpit structure. Groundbreakings for the Moses Lake plant and an addition to BMW’s Landshut, Germany, plant, which will handle production of the CFRP parts, took place, respectively, on July 7 and July 19.

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SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers breaks ground on Washington facility

SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture of BMW Group and SGL Group, will build a carbon fiber production facility in Moses Lake, Wash. Carbon fiber from the plant will be used exclusively in the forthcoming all-electric Megacity Vehicle, due out in 2013.