BMW Continues To Cut Carbon Fiber Cost


BMW i3 Made Largely From Carbon Fiber

BMW i3 Made Largely From Carbon Fiber

BMW Carbon Fiber

BMW Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is not widely utilized in the passenger vehicle segment of the automotive industry, but BMW is looking to change that.

Per Bloomberg:

“Large-scale manufacturing of cars made with lightweight carbon fiber is moving closer to reality as costs start to fall, according to a materials-development group that has Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) as a partner.”

“MAI Carbon Cluster Management GmbH, a research effort supported by Germany’s federal government, businesses and research institutions, is making progress toward reducing carbon-fiber production costs by 90 percent, according to Klaus Drechsler, head of the 80 million-euro ($102 million) project.”

If costs can be reduced by 90%, then surely carbon fiber’s usage will increase dramatically in the auto sector.

According to Klaus Drachsler:

“We’ve certainly reached a halfway point on our cost-cutting target for suitable carbon-fiber parts.  We’ll see a lot more carbon-fiber use in the next generation of cars.”

BMW, with both the i3 and i8, is perhaps the biggest pusher of carbon fiber use in mass-produced automobiles.

According to Bloomberg:

“BMW and Audi AG (NSU), the world’s two biggest makers of luxury cars, are among more than 70 companies and other entities backing MAI. Manufacturers are seeking carbon-fiber components to replace standard metal parts that may weigh twice as much. The material was reserved until recently for high-end sports cars because it costs as much as $20 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) in its raw form, compared with less than $1 for steel, according to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants Holding GmbH.”

Applications of carbon fiber in cheaper vehicles will “develop over time,” according to one analyst.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to using carbon fiber is its longevity.  Unlike most metals, carbon fiber fatigues over time (bicyclists are well aware of this attribute linked to carbon fiber).  It remains to be seen how this will impact cars such as the i3 as the miles rack up and the carbon fiber components are stressed.

Source: Bloomberg

Category: BMW

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17 responses to "BMW Continues To Cut Carbon Fiber Cost"
  1. Aaron says:

    Are they still shipping it from Washington state, or are they committing to make it in Germany at point of assembly? Shipping across the ocean on dirty, polluting boats, then shipping the assembled cars on dirty, polluting boats, possibly even back to Washington state, seems like a huge waste.

    1. Joshua Burstyn says:

      I’d also like to see what is done with the used carbon fibre. I’ve only heard of downcycling of CF material. As much as Al and Ti are mined metals requiring some serious power to isolate, they’re also fully recyclable and do not fatigue in the same way as CF.

      Again, I like CF but would like to see some serious studies with respect to it’s recyclability and fatigue characteristics.

      Furthermore CF commonly uses polyester resins, however these are often extremely toxic until the curing process is complete. We should consider other resins if possible, IMO.

      1. RussB says:

        You are right, there is currently no reasonable (either economically or environmentally) way to recycle CFRP. It will get ground up (at much expense – CFRP is hell on shredders) and land-filled.

        And CF takes way more (more than twice as much) energy to make than aluminium, and up to 20 times as much as steel.

        CFRP is just not a practical material for cars from an economic or environmental perspective.

  2. SGL Carbon stock is tanking badly.

  3. Stephen says:

    Where does this mid-info come from? CF is way more fatigue resistant than steel or Al

    1. Anonymous Me says:


      CFRP has basically a flat fatigue vs cycle plot. It’s fatigue life is well well well beyond steels and aluminums.

      What bikers are probably experiencing is weakening due to moisture. CFRP does weaken if it absorbs moisture.

    2. leeG says:

      When comparing CFRP with metal, CFRP wins in tension fatigue, but metal wins in compression fatigue. There is 30+ years of experience with high performance CFRP structures in military aviation.

    3. RussB says:

      I would guess that what the author means is that, unlike steel or titanium, CFRP and aluminium do not have a fatigue limit, i.e. a stress limit below which no amount of fatigue cycles will cause failure. This can be an important design consideration in machines like automobiles where parts may be subjected to a large number of stress cycles. This can require over-engineering to compensate, reducing the lightweighting potential of the materials.

  4. pjwood says:

    I was active w/USCF racing about 4 yrs ago and never heard of carbon failing over time. aluminum, yes. Maybe it was Cvelo’s $2,000 / kilo stuff.

    1. pjwood says:

      ..Cervelo. Fragile, yes. Fatigue, no.

  5. ELROY says:

    But as James would say ” Why are we even talking about Carbon fiber?, the BMW i3 uses carbon fiber reinforced plastic!”

    1. Stephen says:

      Semantics. CFRP is often shortened to carbon in conversation in the same way Aluminum alloy is shortened to Aluminum. No one uses pure carbon fiber or aluminum for structures anyway.

      1. Anonymous Me says:

        Are pigs flying? Someone intelligent actually commenting at inside evs? I normally stop scrolling before I hit the comments section.. 😉

  6. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

    “Half way there”? Does that mean “the easy bit”? (Comparatively speaking, not minimizing technological achievements.)

  7. Steven says:

    If someone can bring the price of CFRP down to the price of 6061, that would be an absolute game changer.

  8. Omar Sultan says:

    Manufacturing costs is one angle, but repair is the other cost to look at. Folks that are buying $100K+ exotics might not worry ago these things, but in the $30K+ range. both owners and insurance companies will care. There is already muttering on the Tesla forums regarding the body work costs of “little fender benders” on the car’s aluminum body panels (my hope is the move of the F150 to aluminum will make it less of an exotic material for body shops).

    Anyone have any idea how repair costs for CFRP might look like–are panels repairable or only replaceable?