Production of natural fibers Bcomp. Photo credit, all images: Bcomp
The BMW Group (Munich, Germany) is expanding its involvement in the field of sustainable and resource-efficient manufacturing of vehicle components made from natural fiber reinforced materials. BMW i Ventures (Mountain View, CA, USA), the premium automaker’s venture capital firm, is now investing in Swiss cleantech company Bcomp Ltd. (Fribourg, Switzerland), a leading manufacturer of high performance components made from natural fibers. At the same time, the two companies are also strengthening their partnership on the motorsport side, with Bcomp now being an official partner of BMW M Motorsport with the new BMW M4 GT4 racing car. In addition, BMW Group Research and Bcomp are also setting up a development alliance with the aim of using a greater proportion of renewable raw materials for the components of future vehicle models.
Bcomp’s fiber reinforcement solutions were reportedly first deployed by BMW M Motorsport in Formula E in 2019. The BMW iFE.20’s flax cooling shaft has made it what BMW says is the first car to race with parts constructed from renewable textile fibers. Meanwhile, powerRibs and ampliTex reinforcement solutions developed by Bcomp and made from natural composite materials have been used in BMW M Motorsport’s DTM touring cars to replace some carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components. Such breakthroughs underline the vital role of BMW M Motorsport as a technology laboratory for the BMW Group, which is now ready to continue the collaboration on the BMW M4 GT4. Building on findings and experience gained on the track, the BMW Group adds that these hardware technologies will also find their way into BMW M models and BMW M Performance Parts.
“Product durability is also becoming increasingly important in the world of motorsport,” says Franciscus van Meel, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW M GmbH. “We are delighted to have Bcomp on board as an official partner of BMW M Motorsport for the BMW M4 GT4 project.”
Inspired by leaf ribs, the powerRibs reinforcement technology developed by Bcomp would have maximized stiffness with minimal weight by creating a 3D structure on one side of a thin-walled shell element. This allows a decrease in the amount of base material used, thereby reducing weight, costs and production consumables. ampliTex reinforcements add a visible layer of flax fibers as a carbon-neutral replacement for conventional facing material. The combination of the two materials reduces the amount of plastic used for interior panels by up to 70%, according to BMW Group, while simultaneously reducing CO emissions.2 emissions up to 75%. The result is more durable vehicle components, whose ductile fracture properties have the added benefit of increasing safety. The natural fiber composites also lend themselves to use with classic motorsport accessories, such as those from the BMW M Performance Parts range.
BMW M motorsport vehicle.
The development partnership between BMW Group Research and Bcomp is also working on the use of new sustainable material solutions for future production models. BMW Group aims to reduce the life cycle carbon emissions of its vehicles by more than 40% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.
At the present time, natural fibers are particularly suitable for use in the visible parts and the trimmings of vehicle interiors. “In order to reduce carbon emissions across its entire fleet, the BMW Group does not only focus on the use phase, it also pays attention to energy-saving processes during manufacturing,” explains Florian Preuß, Senior Vice President, Complete Vehicle Development. , within the BMW Group. “The selection and composition of innovative materials is an important step here as we move towards climate neutrality.”