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BMW has always been a leader in design and innovation. Their pursuit to be the “Ultimate Driving Machine” has inspired numerous manufacturers to create similar vehicles with the same innovations. One of BMW’s more recent advances was the application of alternative materials, in particular, its use of carbon fiber.

BMW was the first to develop a cost effective means of creating carbon fiber vehicles, as seen in their “i” division. By using carbon fiber in their vehicles, BMW has been able to increase safety, reduce weight, and improve fuel efficiency. According to Jochen Kopp, who specializes in the product and process planning for carbon fiber, BMW has a two year lead on rivals in terms of carbon fiber mass product know-how.  

Innovation does have its costs though. The average cost of carbon fiber in a modern BMW is about 18 dollars per kilo, whereas the average cost of common steel is less than one dollar per kilo. BMW analysts attribute the high cost of carbon fiber to low sales of the BMW’s i3 electric car.

For smaller profit margin cars like the i3, that rely on volume, the high price of carbon fiber makes a big difference in sales. Reduced sales paired with higher material costs have forced BMW to limit its use of carbon fiber and look for new lightweight materials .

So far, carbon-blended magnesium, aluminum and steel are the available alternatives. These new “hybrid” experiments will allow BMW to continue to produce innovative light-weight ultimate driving machines.

Photo credit: BMW Blog