BMW invests in composite materials from natural fibres

BMW ramps up useof performance composites made from natural fibres

The BMW Group is increasing its involvement in sustainable, resource-efficient manufacturing of components for its vehicles made from natural materials. BMW’s venture capital firm, BMW I Ventures has invested in Swiss cleantech company Bcomp, the leading manufacturer of high performance composites made from natural fibres. This partnership also extends to BMW’s motorsport activities, with Bcomp now an official BMW M Motorsport partner as a supplier of components for their M4 GT4 racing car. In addition BMW Group research and Bcomp are also setting up a development collaboration with the aim of using a higher proportion of renewable raw materials for components in future vehicle models.

Bcomp’s cutting edge reinforcement solutions have been successfully used in in a variety of motorsport projects to date, including Formula E. Another examples is the flax cooling shaft on the BMW iFE.20, which made it the first BMW racing car with parts constructed from renewable plant fibres. Bcomp developed powerRibs and ampliTex reinforcement solutions made from natural composite materials have been used in DTM touring cars from BMW M Motorsport as a substitute for selected carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) components. These advancements highlight the importance of motorsport as a technology lab for the BMW group. The findings and experience gained on track, will trickle down to BMW M models and BMW M performance parts.

Inspired by the veins on a leaf, the powerRibs reinforcement technology developed by Bcomp maximises stiffness without the need for additional weight by creating a 3D structure on one side of a thin walled shell element. Decreasing the amount of base material needed reduces weight, costs and consumables needed for production.

A visible layer of flax fibres as a carbon-neutral replacement for the conventional covering material is added by AmpliTex. By combining the two materials it is possible to reduce the amount of plastic used for interior panelling by up to 70 percent and lower CO2 emissions by up to 60 percent.

The result is more sustainable vehicle components, which are less prone to failure an additional benefit of which is increased levels of safety over traditional composites.

The development partnership is also working on the use of sustainable material solutions for future production models, as this forms a key element of the sustainability strategy of the BMW Group, who aims to lower its vehicles lifecycle carbon emissions by over 40 percent by 2030.

The use of renewable raw materials and natural fibres such as hemp, kenaf or flax minimises material usage while also reducing weight by up to 50 percent. This helps to lower the energy consumption of the vehicles in which they are used. In addition these natural materials bring down the calculated Co2 figure, as their original plants absorbed CO2 while growing and releasing oxygen.

Currently natural fibred parts are well suited for use in visible and panelling parts of vehicle interiors and will go a long way in reducing carbon emissions across its entire fleet.