The BMW Group (Munich, Germany) revealed more details about its forthcoming all-electric, composites-intensive i3 passenger vehicle in its annual report, issued on March 19. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, says the first preseries BMW i3 rolled off the production line in January. Designed specifically to run with zero emissions in an urban environment, the commuter car will come onto the market by the end of the year. “Several hundred advance orders have already been received for the BMW i3,” adds Reithofer.
The BMW i3 sports a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) passenger cell and an aluminum chassis and, says BMW, the vehicle sets new standards in the field of lightweight construction. BMW claims the i3 will be 250 to 350 kg (551 to 771 lb) lighter than a comparable electric car and has a range of about 150 km/93 miles per charge, which — based on experience gleaned from the MINI E and BMW Active E test fleets — is considered sufficient in most circumstances. Customers also can opt to increase the vehicle’s per-charge capability with a so-called Range Extender.
BMW also reports the production times are reduced significantly by employing unique manufacturing methods and significantly fewer parts, simplifying assembly. The BMW i3 reportedly will require only half the time necessary to produce a conventional automobile.
In a related announcement, Austrian injection molding manufacturer ENGEL (Schwertberg, Austria) reported on March 8 that BMW’s Leipzig, Germany, factory has taken delivery of two ENGEL injection molding machines that will be used to manufacture lightweight components for car body shells. Dr. Peter Neumann, CEO of ENGEL Holding, says, “The order from BMW shows that we are seen by the car industry as the leading provider when it comes to lightweight construction.” It is likely, but unconfirmed at HPC press time, that the machines will mold i3 body panels.
The machines are capable of clamping forces as high as 4,000 and 2,700 metric tonnes (8.82 million and 5.95 million lb), respectively. They are set up to injection mold two components simultaneously and are designed to accept molds of different sizes and shapes to guarantee a high degree of production flexibility. The machines are equipped with industrial multiaxis robots, a menu-driven mold changing feature, a system display screen and data tracing.
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