In BMW AG's battery-powered city car, the same lightweight material used to protect Formula One drivers will be used for the passenger-safety cell. BMW regards this fabric to be used on the small electric vehicle to be the auto industry's biggest bet so far on carbon fiber.
Klaus Draeger, BMW's development chief, said that combining carbon fiber and aluminum will offset up to 772 pounds of added weight from battery and electronic components. Christoph Stuermer, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Frankfurt, said that the economics is balanced on a "razor blade."
He said that this method of using lots of carbon fiber and breaking them into smaller pieces could be the "magic trick" to cut costs and make the frame only twice as expensive as aluminum.
BMW's carbon fiber for the vehicle will be produced at a $100 million factory near Seattle that is being constructed with partner SGL Carbon SE. The fibers, which are composed of 50,000 filaments that are one-seventh as thick as a human hair, will be made into fabrics.
These will then be hardened into components at the plants in Germany. Carbonfiber, which is 50% lighter than steel, will cut the size and cost of the battery required for the car to run.