BMW’s $100 million investment in SGL Group’s carbon fiber division in Moses Lake, WA is paying off in big ways. As their designers continue to find new uses for lightweight materials, BMW builds larger, lighter, stronger and more powerful vehicles than ever.
The new style 7-Series sets the standard for lightweight materials use. The new car is longer and lighter than the outgoing body due to the use of the new carbon core technology, high strength aluminum and magnesium.
The 7 boasts what is probably the closest thing yet to mainstream application of structural carbon fiber. Cast carbon-fiber panels are bonded over steel in the B- and C-pillars, as well as the center tunnel, adding stiffness and strength. The hat shelf behind the rear seats is a cast carbon panel. Sturdy woven tubes stiffen the sills and form the longitudinal roof rails reaching from the A-pillars back to the Cs. The roof bows are also carbon fiber. Forming so much of the upper structure from the lightweight material helps drop the center of gravity compared with the outgoing car.
Carbon fiber isn’t the lone lightweight material though. The doors—both the inner and outer panels, as well as the crash structure inside—and the trunklid are made from aluminum, as are the front and rear shock towers. The dash support is a magnesium casting spanning the width of the firewall. BMW says it trimmed 190 pounds as compared to the old style car.