The first-ever Munich Motor Show sees BMW debuting a handful of products set to roll into showrooms in the coming months, including a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the iX5, and updates of the iX3 city car and X4 and X5 sport-utility vehicles.
But the Bavarian brand also is peering well into the future with the unveiling of the i Vision Circular Concept. The oddly named show car aims to provide a look at what an environmentally friendly, compact luxury SUV will look like in 2040.
“The BMW i Vision Circular … symbolizes our ambition to be a pioneering force in the development of a circular economy,” said BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse. That means a focus on recycling all the components and raw materials in tomorrow’s vehicles, according to Zipse, who added ”the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources.”
That’s already becoming apparent as automakers struggle to find the raw materials for all the battery packs they’ll need as the industry electrifies. Some experts warn there could be shortages of lithium and other metals if new supplies aren’t found. And, longer term, they contend that more advanced battery recycling will be essential.
The “overriding design” goal for the i Circular Vision Concept is to recycle 100% of the vehicle, including not only its batteries and metal body panels but tires, seat fabrics and other materials.
As a result, the automaker says, the concept “will achieve much higher energy density with significantly reduced use of the most valuable resources.”
To achieve that goal will require a radical new approach to design and engineering, according to BMW, along with the development of new, more sustainable materials. That could include organic fabrics, as well as the use of materials like recycled soft drink bottles.
The concept’s bumpers, for example, use new manufacturing techniques to give recycled plastic a more appealing texture. And laser engraving techniques could eliminate the need for bolted-on badging and trim parts, says BMW.
Where the recycled rubber meets the road
The concept even addresses the challenges of recycling rubber.
“The slightly transparent tires are made from certified, sustainably cultivated natural rubber,” the automaker said in a statement. “Colored, recycled rubber particles are added to the tire compound for strengthening and create an intriguing terrazzo effect which purposefully highlights the reuse of materials.
It also will be important to design future vehicles to make it easy to disassemble them, BMW says, easing the challenge — and cost — of recycling.
“In order to minimize the amount of waste and offcuts,” the automaker explained, “all components and materials will be manufactured to fit exactly using processes such as 3D printing. Any surplus material will be systematically fed back into the materials cycle.
The Circular Concept also will make use of new powertrain technologies. For one thing, the prototype draws power from next-generation solid-state batteries that are expected to be lighter, less expensive, faster to charge and less prone to catch fire than today’s lithium-ion technology.
The Circular Concept also adopts new technologies, integrating its displays directly into the windshield, for one thing.
“The information area you would normally expect to find in a central information display is located above the instrument panel at the bottom of the windscreen,” said the BMW backgrounder. “The existing windscreen is transformed into an information source and eliminates the need for any other displays in the interior.”
According to BMW, it will begin incorporating some of the ideas and technologies found in the i Vision Circular Concept as it begins rolling out its “Neue Klasse,” or New Class, of electrified vehicles in the coming years.