BMW Developing Carbon Fiber Wheels for Increased Efficiency

By Jacob Brown | February 21, 2014
When BMW was developing its ultra-lightweight, ultra-efficient i3 city car and i8 sports car, you didn't seriously think BMW wasn't dabbling in other ways to expand its use of carbon fiber, did you? Because BMW is--very much so. According to the U.K.'s Auto Express and confirmed by a slew of BMW-released photographs, BMW is planning to introduce carbon fiber and alloy combination wheels that will slice 25 percent of the unsprung mass of the wheel off each corner. Unsprung mass is, by definition, part of the car's weight that falls forward of the axles and is a great source of friction for a car to get moving. Eliminating a quarter of that weight would result in much better fuel-efficiency, which is just what BMW is aiming for with its Efficient Dynamics engineering. The next step is getting it by regulators who might question the long-term durability of such a rigid material.
That's not stopping BMW from developing carbon fiber driveshafts--again, to reduce friction--steering wheels, and even dashboard mounts, which are often made of steel or magnesium. The carbon fiber reinforced plastic used in the BMW i3 is made of full sheets, making it look more sophisticated and woven. But with most of the parts that BMW is developing being small or out of sight, the automaker is able to get away with using scrap, grinding it up and baking the carbon fiber in new adhesives that make the end product stronger and lighter than conventional steel or plastic pieces. If BMW can use its carbon fiber reinforced plastic in more of its cars, it will be able to lower the price of the products, increase profitability, and even make cars much more efficient. Look for more information around the time of the Geneva Motor Show next month. Source: Auto Express, BMW