BMW i3 Production Process

Many are wondering whether Apple’s collaboration with BMW will give clues as to the future shape of the Apple Car.  Some have even gone on to speculate that Apple may use the BMW i3 as a design or basis for its own electric car.

This morning, technology analyst and avid Apple-watcher, Horace Dediu (www.asymco.com) retweeted a 22 minute clip of the BMW i3 production process.  His accompanying tweet cryptically read ‘Watching how BMW makes the i3, it’s obvious why Apple had a chat.’

From this first clip alone (it is part 1 of 4 clips) we see two very important features of the BMW i3 production:

i) High levels of automation – very few people are involved in a predominantly automated process

ii) High levels of automated carbon fibre production – This is important because carbon fibre is traditionally a cost choke point due to its difficulty of manufacture in large quantities as this quote from Wikipedia suggests (CFRP stands for Carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer):

‘CFRPs can be expensive to produce but are commonly used wherever high strength-to-weight ratio and rigidity are required…’

It is clear from the video clip that BMW is able to manufacture carbon fibre at scale and that the i3 has a substantial amount of carbon fibre in it.

In an earlier article I speculated that the Apple Car will need to be extremely light, but also extremely strong.  Such a material would cause a ‘virtuous cycle‘ for an electric vehicle of being a) reduced weight since batteries weigh a lot b) better performance through better power to weight ratio c) cheaper as batteries are presently one of the most expensive components of an electric car.