Video: How Carbon Fiber Comes Together In The BMW i3


The BMW i3 is the first mass production car to use carbon fiber reinforced plastic for a major component en masse. So how’d they do it? BMW gives us the full scoop on this carbon fiber voodoo, from the first strand to the final product, a lightweight and strong passenger compartment that’s corrosion free and meets even the most stringent safety standards.

It all starts in Moses Lake, Washington at SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, where the carbon fiber is formed into a web before the oxidation process. Finally, the carbon fiber goes through the winding process, before being sent to a BMW plant in Germany. There, giant looms weave the carbon fiber into a textile form to make for easy shaping.

The carbon fiber reinforced plastic is half the weight of steel, improving the efficiency potential for the BMW i3. It’s an amazing material that will have a growing impact on the auto industry, and it all starts with this little German EV. If the BMW i3 is indeed a sales hit it already seems to be, other automakers will be forced to take notice, and respond in kind.

I for one look forward to our new carbon fiber automobiles.

Source: BMW

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A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • AaronD12

    During my i3 test drive, the salesgirl was telling me about the CFRP and how it’s great for the environment because of its recycle-ability. I asked her “how green is it when it’s made in Washington state, shipped to Germany, then the entire car is shipped back?” She didn’t appreciate my question.

  • Shayne

    Carbon fiber is still made from petro-chemicals. The Oakridge Labs did a test on using switchgrass feedstock to make carbon fiber. This would make sense if you were truly trying to reduce the use of oil and gas products. I love the i3 and i8, but if this goes mass scale, it’s not doing anything really to reduce our reliance on oil and even coal in some places where coal is still after all the main source for electricity. I do understand BMW has done life-cycle assessments and located the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake because of the clean hydro electricity, this may be all right for now, but they should really be looking to either hemp or switchgrass. In the case of hemp, it’s a duel-crop, so there isn’t the issues like food for fuel, etc.