BMW has been all over the news lately with the production of its i-series electric and hybrid cars. The i-series models represent the first extensive use of structural carbon fiber composites for mass-produced cars and the company’s $200 million Moses Lake, Wash., facility is currently housing all vehicle production.
A new $100 million investment, along with earlier expansions, will triple the plant’s current annual capacity – and enable the production of nearly 9,000 tons of carbon fiber per year. According to Dr. Jurgen Kohler, chief executive at the SGL Group, this new output will equal one-fifth of the total global demand for carbon fiber.
“This is just the beginning of a carbon fiber industrial cluster in the state of Washington,” said Governor Jay Inslee at the groundbreaking ceremony that several journalists from around the world attended following the press launch in Los Angeles.
Due to the expansion, the company was able to increase plant employment from 125 to 200 people and raise the starting hourly wage from $17 to $22 for production workers.
Dr. Klaus Draeger, a member of BMW’s board of management, believes that the company chose eastern Washington for its cheap hydropower and the ability to create a “green” supply chain using sustainable energy. “To produce carbon fiber you need energy, you need electricity. We have here very competitive electricity costs,” said Draeger. “At least as important is to have this energy as renewable energy. The energy here is clean energy.”