BMW i3 – “Most Revolutionary Car Since Model T”


BMW i3 Cutaway

BMW i3 Cutaway

BMW i3

BMW i3

In mid-January, at the 2015 NAIAS, Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro & Associates (a firm that specializes in automotive teardowns), spoke at the Pastics In Automotive Conference.

Much of his speech focused on the BMW i3, a vehicle the company recently tore down for inspection.

Following the completion of the teardown, Munro & Associates releases a report titled “Deconstructing the BMW i3: Groundbreaking Technology and the Composite Car.” In the report, and on stage at the plastics conference, Munro stated that various aspects of the i3, including the carbon fiber life module, polymer components, recyclability and safety make it what he considers to be “the most revolutionary car in terms of creative engineering and manufacturing since Henry Ford’s Model T.”

Here’s the press release from Munro & Associates:

Munro Discusses Groundbreaking Technology Finds from BMW i3 Teardown at Plastics in Automotive Conference; Offers New BMW i3 for Purchasers of Master-level Report

DETROIT, Jan. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — During today’s Plastics in Automotive Conference in Detroit, Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro & Associates, Inc., discussed – for the first time publicly – his consulting firm’s findings from its extensive deep-dive teardown, costing and benchmark study of the BMW i3 urban electric car. During his presentation, “Deconstructing the BMW i3: Groundbreaking Technology and the Composite Car,” Munro discussed the carbon fiber life module, polymer components, recyclability and safety of what he considers to be “the most revolutionary car in terms of creative engineering and manufacturing since Henry Ford’s Model T.”

During the presentation, Munro focused on four crucial aspects of the BMW i3: the manufacturing of its carbon fiber life module; its polymer components; recyclability; and safety. Munro estimates the life module is comprised of approximately 90 percent carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) with various plastic and metal components attached throughout the assembly. Weighing 78 kilos, the life module is assembled robotically using various adhesives. Interestingly, the Class-A, high gloss roof is made using recycled scraps of carbon fiber trim from other components.

Instead of visible CFRP, the interior is trimmed primarily with Class-A surface combinations of polymers, leather and natural fiber reinforced plastic (NFP). For example, the NFP on the door and instrument panel is a kenaf-polypropylene blend. BMW also added safety through the use of polymers with PC/PBT A-pillar and side deformation elements.

Regarding recyclability and safety? BMW’s i3 passes every safety test, including the narrow offset. Also, there are now companies recycling and reusing carbon fiber and, to aid in that effort, BMW and Boeing have a joint venture to address the issue.

“This is, without a doubt, one of the best engineered vehicles on the planet,” said Munro. “We’ve taken apart a lot of cars, planes, wind turbines and more, and the BMW i3 continued to pleasantly surprise us throughout the teardown process. This will be the vehicle that other automakers look to for next-generation improvements.”

Using its proprietary advanced design, quality and costing software, Munro is currently finalizing its comprehensive analysis of the BMW i3 vehicle and selling detail-rich reports for general purchase. To drive interest, Munro will give away a new BMW i3 with every purchase of the Master-/OEM-level version of its benchmarking study when purchased during the 2015 North American International Auto Show or the Plastics in Automotive Conference.

According to Munro, “knowing the cost and production methods BMW used for the i3 will be a strategic advantage to other automakers, as well as materials, component and manufacturing equipment suppliers.” For more information about purchasing the reports, please visit this link: BMW i3 Teardown and Benchmarking Reports Summary.

About the Plastics in Automotive Conference

The Plastics in Automotive conference will explore how plastics can play a major role as a go-to material for building vehicles that are powerful, safe, comfortable and affordable and feature advancements, growth opportunities and success stories in automotive plastics. Featured topics include panel discussions on autonomous vehicles, material innovations, and the implementation of CAFE standards that will affect automotive development. For more information, visit

About Munro & Associates

Founded in 1988, Munro & Associates Inc. is a world class consulting engineering firm based in Troy, Mich. with offices in Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia. The firm specializes in upfront, predictive methods to increase profitability by improving quality, reliability and value, while reducing total lifecycle costs. The Munro team delivers in-depth knowledge in product design, manufacturing, quality and technologies from a broad selection of industries. For more information, visit

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27 Comments on "BMW i3 – “Most Revolutionary Car Since Model T”"

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That may be what BMW thinks. History may be more likely to give that title to the Tesla Roadster, the first long range EV at 240 miles, the Chevy Bolt, or another car made by Tesla.


“…the most revolutionary car in terms of creative engineering and manufacturing since Henry Ford’s Model T.”

The Roadster hardly qualifies for that honor. Tesla took an engine-less Elise and shoved a ton of batteries + electric motor into the chassis. That’s neither creative engineering nor manufacturing.

I would go a step farther and say that the Roadster proved how easy it is to create a great EV. No crazy new engineering/manufacturing feats are needed.

The I3 is as ugly as the model T, that is why is similar.

Sounds like the bloom is off the rose, Brian.

Since ‘Model T’ had problems with broken axles (unhardened), maybe the cold weather issues with the I3 are somewhat similiar bugaboos.

An engineering-consulting firm selling it’s detailed analysis? Who is buying? Speaking to a plastics conference , this guy is preaching to the choir. As it is, the battle to overtake steel in the new race towards affordable lightweighting is a new race indeed. Not unlike Formula E, this race is just beginning and isn’t in any hurry to overtake existing technologies. Consider the steel industry itself. To meet new C.A.R.B. and C.A.F.E. standards plus numerous European regulations for zero emissions and high traffic density zones – the steel industry has finalized new alloys and technologies rivaling aluminum for lower cost. The aluminum industry is entering the fray full bore, as one of it’s major customers, the aircraft industry, has gone carbon fiber. Thusly, the auto industry is big on it’s radar. Further up in price past aluminum and high-tech steel alloys is carbon composites. Included in these is CFRP which is a plastic sandwich with one sheet of carbon fiber in the middle. Certainly, here at this conference, the big talk is about plastics and composites that can rival aluminum and steel. So far – it’s too expensive and proprietary for repair houses to deal with. When BMW has to… Read more »

I would say it is a fair statement to say affordable carbon fiber consumer cars and realistically-priced plastic/composite automobiles are farther away from being cost efficient than lithium batteries and power electronics are for BEVs.

We see great gains in energy density for lithium battery packs today. These strategies for bringing plastic polymers and plastic sandwiches with a single layer of carbon fiber into the mainstream auto production don’t seem to be on a similar fast track towards mass acceptance.

BEVs are up against a well-entrenched gas and diesel auto industry fueled by replacement parts and maintenance services. These foes have many weaknesses thus BEVs are the most obvious solution to replace them. Not so much for plastic and composites up against a very capable steel and aluminum industry highly motivated to be suppliers of auto body structures for decades to come.

James: unfortunately so goes the world

Automation is everywhere and destroying jobs in ever increasing numbers.

MSP airport (major hub) now has 3 Delta employees and around 50 kiosks. Same with customs. Long rows of kiosks that check yiur passport and do everything.

There were only 2 customs agents and maybe 25 kiosks.

Same at supermarket. Self checkout lanes

How many travel agents lost their jobs to Expedia?

Pairing automation with globalization and illegal immigration explains the continued downfall of the US working and middle class

The jobs part of that isn’t great, but not having to wait an hour to check into a flight is pretty awesome.

(Sorry for straying OT)

Always hard to defend a superlative.
I’d think the EV1 or similar first gen EV might take that title, or Tesla Roadster.

But then again, the only revolutionary thing about those was creating an EV. the rest of the Roadster was essentially a Lotus.

The i3 is not revolutionary in terms of its drivetrain, but it is in terms of body composition and manufacturing process.

Given that the model T was mainly revolutionary due to Henry Ford’s manufacturing process (the actual car itself was less so), I can see why this firm would equate it to BMW who created a new manufacturing process.

But in the end there is probably no such thing ad the “most” revolutionary. It’s been a gradual process with a few jumps

I think that’s fair, given that nobody else has ever offered extensive carbon fiber at anywhere remotely near the i3’s price.

But it’ll soon be surpassed by the Model 3, because in the end carbon fiber doesn’t affect transportation much in the grand scheme of things, but cheap batteries will.

Yes, the i3 materials and manufacturing processes are definitely revolutionary, even if it is not functionally unique as a vehicle.

On the other hand, the Teslas (including the Model 3), while unique from a functional and software perspective, use conventional materials and manufacturing techniques. This is probably Teslas biggest vulnerability, anyone could build a Tesla-like vehicle, if they wanted to. So far few have wanted to, but that will change going forward, Bolt being a potential example.

The all aluminum chassis of the Model S is pretty rare. Aluminum body panels are more common, but the chassis design was taken from SpaceX technology.

The only other vehicle sold at Model S volume with an aluminum chassis (that I know of) is the new Corvette Stingray.

And Jaguar XK and F

The primary vehicle the aluminum industry really cares is the Ford F150 with the aluminum body.

Since sales are so high, this is the main vehicle which will keep aluminum prices up.

Now, if S is continually regarded as a premium vehicle, then it is noteworthy for the aluminum industry in that it provides panache.

Tesla is really not that vulnerable from other EVs because they are the first mover.

They’ve established a ridiculously powerful brand for its size by being ahead of all the other automakers on all technological fronts (performance, safety, charging, interior space, software, etc), and that will only change if they really screw up (e.g. awful quality, a boneheaded PR move, etc).

Their high speed charging network will remain the fastest and most complete for many years, as nothing else is even on the horizon.

Tesla’s biggest vulnerability is a killer PHEV (as it only needs 1/4 the battery and no charging network). But there are enough people attracted to the concept of pure EV that it won’t matter.

Rightly or Wrongly, each Tesla gets a minimum of a $17,500 ‘subsidy’.. By my count of gov’t grants, loans, and ZEV credits which other automakers (er, more precisely, their customers) pay, works out to a minimum of $10,000. More if someone else is counting. Then there is the $7500 tax credit that we all get for being ev’ers.

I’m not complaining. I just don’t see how a $17,500 tax credit can be provided per car for a mass – market – model 3.

I am not sure I agree with the ZEV idea. Other automakers can make their own EVs, they don’t have to buy credits. The idea of the credits seemed great, incentivize EVs without using tax payer dollars. The laws that came out of it are way to convoluted leading to strange design issues we have seen with Volt (redesign to qualify), i3 (gimped gas volume), and Outlander PHEV (delayed release to market because of battery monitoring compliance).

As far as the loans, you must know that Tesla paid its loan ($465 million) back in just over a year, with the full 10 year interest paid in advance. Ford ($5.9 billion) and Nissan ($1.6 billion) are paying their loans back over the full 10 years. And the Fisker loan was never fully paid out (~$100 million of $530 million), but is definitely not getting paid back.

Yeah but they did that on the basis of $2.3 Billion in convertible debt at essentially free (25-125 basis points) 5 – 7 year debt, and that in the spring of 2014 alone.

Nice work if you can get it.

I’m not criticizing, I just don’t see some things as all that sustainable, in the sense that 10 years from now may not necessarily be what others are saying it will be.

Meanwhile, some metals guy is probably somewhere, thumping the same stuff about the aluminum F150.

Yes. To the national Aluminum Is Autodom Conference.

And that guy is trying to sell important teardown data that is vital to have! Now I wonder just how much Sandy Munro of Munro & Associates, is selling that data for…

Can’t big corporations do their own reverse engineering?

The i3 is no better than the third-most revolutionary car of its own generation, behind the Model S and the Volt.


ugly ass i3 is not revolutionary

Model S is the most revolutionary, again BMW paying for awards and praise

15 million Model T’s were produced between 1909 and 1927, costing on average around $500 dollars, equivalent to around 100 days of work for Ford employees. Or circa $15k in today’s dollars.
So a car for the masses, which the i3 is not, so no equivalence there. As far as other factors, like materials, production methods, efficiency, I would refer to those as positive developments but not revolutionary and certainly not on par with, by international acclaim, the car of the century, as the Model T was voted for the 20th century.


If slapping a battery in an empty chassis with an electric motor and go 240 miles is not revolutionary, then slapping Carbon Fiber onto plastic to reinforce isn’t either.

i3 IS NOT 100% CF, it’s CFRP!


So I guess taking a shitload of electrical energy to supercharge an EV isn’t revolutionary either?



On that note, a single company that makes only 100% EV’s that built out the fastest EV charging network on the planet (that I know of) and cars that go in excess of 200 miles electric that woke up the rest of the auto manufacturers isn’t “Revolutionary”?

You are absolutely correct about one thing Cheryl:

Elon Musk will go down in history as the greatest Car salesman ever.