BMW and SGL to triple production capacity at US carbon fibre plant

Video: The BMW i3, launched last year, is built around a CFRP passenger cell (or 'Life Module').  

This has been announced by the joint venture partners, SGL Group and BMW Group, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned site expansion.

The expansion will be funded by an investment of US$200 million, in addition to the previously invested US$100 million.

The world's largest carbon fibre plant

The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by early 2015, will make the plant in Moses Lake the world’s largest carbon fibre plant. With the anticipated creation of 120 new jobs, the headcount at the joint venture in Moses Lake is going to rise from 80 currently to about 200 people.

BMW says that due to the automated production processes employed, the expansion of the site in Moses Lake will make it possible to incorporate carbon fibre in other BMW models in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities.

At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for the BMW i models, with an annual output of approximately 3000 tons of carbon fibre. This summer, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will commission a third and fourth production line in Moses Lake, which are currently being built, thus doubling the plant’s capacity to 6000 tons per year.

The groundbreaking ceremony for a fifth and sixth production line has been the first step toward tripling capacities to 9000 tons annually in the medium term.

The energy needed for the carbon fibre production is fully generated from hydropower.

Large-series automotive production

“With its highly automated carbon fibre production and stringent quality standards, Moses Lake is setting new standards in the industry. At present, the site is the world’s fastest growing carbon fibre producer. Together with the BMW Group, we are doing pioneering work to establish CFRP as a material in large-series automotive production. In a mix of materials, CFRP offers new opportunities in lightweight construction for an eco-friendly mobility,” explained Dr. Jürgen Köhler, CEO of SGL Group.

As part of an intelligent mix of materials, we will apply carbon beyond our BMW i and BMW M models in the future.
Dr Klaus Draeger, BMW AG

Dr. Klaus Draeger, Board Member Purchasing and Supplier Network at BMW AG: “CFRP is a key material for the automotive industry of the 21st century. In our endeavour to identify increasingly lightweight materials in order to reduce a vehicle’s weight and thus its fuel consumption and carbon emissions, this material plays a crucial role. As part of an intelligent mix of materials, we will apply carbon also beyond our BMW i and BMW M models in the future. Thanks to the pooling of the SGL Group’s expertise and our knowledge in large-series production of CFRP components, we will be able to produce the ultra-lightweight high-tech material also for other model series, at competitive costs and in large quantities.”

The carbon fibre plant in Moses Lake is a key element in the strategy pursued by the two companies, which anticipates the industrialised large-series production of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) for the application in future vehicle concepts. Up to now, carbon fibre produced in Moses Lake is exclusively used for the BMW i models. Since the start of the year, the BMW Leipzig plant in Germany has built over 5000 BMW i3 vehicles. At present, the production output stands at 100 units a day.

BMW has also been using carbon fibre in its BMW M models for the past 10 years.

Andreas Wüllner, CEO of SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers: “In the course of only four years, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers has managed to become the world’s largest carbon fibre production site. The automotive industry will increasingly turn to CFRP because it is a material of the future.”