Immediately after Geneva Motor Show, the “i” concepts from BMW were exposed at 1.618 Paris Sustainable Luxury, marking the dawn of a new era in personal mobility for the automotive industry.
Antoine Bourbonneux, BMW i Strategy Implementation Manager BMW Group France gave us a broad overview of “i3” and “i8” concepts in an exclusive interview.
The BMW “i” range is now poised to enter the consciousness of the automotive public with two new vehicles. First up is the BMW i3 Concept. Previously known as the Megacity Vehicle, the BMW Group’s first series-produced all-electric car focuses squarely on the mobility challenges of the future in urban areas and, as the first premium electric vehicle, reinvents hallmark BMW attributes for the drivers of the future. Then comes the BMW i8 Concept, a sports car of the most contemporary variety – forward-looking, intelligent and innovative. Based on the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car, its unique plug-in hybrid solution brings together a combustion engine and an electric drive system to create an extraordinary driving experience complemented by extremely low fuel consumption and emissions.
The BMW i3 Concept and the BMW i8 Concept, with their highly innovative and efficient drive systems, demonstrate how future mobility can be both sustainable and dynamic. The BMW i3 Concept and BMW i8 Concept are two entirely different vehicles, and this is reflected in their different drive concepts. In both cases the design and configuration of the drive systems are dictated by the individual character of the vehicle and its intended area of application. While the BMW i3 Concept is an all-electric vehicle and therefore optimally equipped for operation around town, the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 Concept combines its electric motor with an internal combustion engine to deliver a high level of performance. The common link between the two vehicles is their electric motor, which marks a move away from exclusive reliance on an internal combustion engine. These cars are “born electric”, and define a whole new concept in drive technology in their segment.
Sustainability in the interior
A stand-out feature of the BMW i3 Concept interior is the visible use, for the first time, of renewable and naturally treated raw materials. This allows the vehicle to express the brand’s claim to sustainability throughout its value chain in stylistic terms. The BMW i3 Concept sets new benchmarks in the use of sustainable materials. In addition to the extensive use of natural fibres in the floor pan and naturally tanned leather, 25 per cent of the weight of the interior plastic is accounted for by recycled or renewable raw materials. All in all, this is another great opportunity taken when it comes to reducing the environmentally damaging CO2 emissions of the cars.
BMW i and sustainability
For BMW i, sustainability is of pivotal importance. A holistic approach to the issue of sustainability is a defining feature of this sub-brand. BMW i aspires to sustainability throughout the entire value chain. From the earliest strategic and planning stages, therefore, clearly defined sustainability targets were set for the BMW i vehicles. All three sustainability aspects were addressed across the entire spectrum, from purchasing, development and production to sales and marketing.
The BMW Group has for a long time been investing huge efforts in developing a sustainable production system. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact of the production process to an absolute minimum. The criteria against which progress is monitored include energy and water consumption, process wastewater, solvent emissions and waste sent to landfill – in each case calculated per vehicle produced. At the same time the BMW Group also monitors CO2e emissions arising from energy consumption. The goal is to reduce resources consumption and emissions per vehicle produced by 30 per cent over 2006 levels by 2012.
However, in the production of its BMW i vehicles the company will be going even further. Compared with the current figures for the BMW Group production network, which has been the benchmark in the entire automotive industry on sustainability for a number of years, the future production plant for BMW i vehicles – Leipzig – will achieve additional 70 per cent savings on water consumption and 50 per cent savings on energy consumption per vehicle produced. 100 per cent of the energy used in production of the BMW i will be renewable.
Recycling as the norm
All BMW i processes conform to the principles of closed-loop material recycling and waste avoidance. Looking at the product lifecycle in its entirety, examples of recycling include use of recycled process wastewater in the production process, use of secondary aluminium and use of recycled fabric in CFRP production. End-to-end recycling saves resources and conserves raw materials for future use. Another priority for the development team is to ensure that all structures and processes are designed to facilitate component reuse and material and energy recycling.
Further opportunity for reducing global warming potential across the entire product lifecycle can be achieved through a carefully focused purchasing strategy for the lightweight materials aluminium and CFRP, which due to the BMW i’s LifeDrive concept account for a much bigger proportion of the total materials used compared with a conventional vehicle.
Recycled aluminium, also known as secondary aluminium, and aluminium produced from 100 per cent renewable energy, offer big opportunities for reducing CO2e emissions. By using renewable energy, CO2e emissions per kilogram of aluminium produced can be reduced by 50 per cent compared with a conventional manufacturing process, while the savings from using secondary aluminium are as high as 80 per cent.
Wherever possible, therefore, the standard castings for the BMW i3 Concept contain 100 per cent secondary aluminium, while for high-strength structural components and crash management components, 50 per cent low-emission recycled content is used. A total of more than 80 per cent of the aluminium used in the BMW i3 Concept is produced either using renewable energy or from secondary material. In CFRP manufacturing, too, BMW i always uses the most eco-friendly processes. The CFRP produced by our joint venture partner at the Moses Lake plant (USA) is made using electricity generated entirely from renewable hydroelectric power.