According to a recent article from Reuters, BMW wants to “double down” on research and development of carbon fiber-based electric cars, which are supported by driverless technology. The company’s efforts will include a revamp of its electric car auto brand “i” that includes i3 and i8 sedans – both of which are considered trendsetters in automotive composite manufacturing.
In an interview at the company’s headquarters in Munich, BMW board member Klaus Froehlich, who is in charge of development, said he reorganized company-wide research and development in April.
“It is now in ramp-up stage,” said Freohlich. “We call it Project `i Next’.”
Last month, BMW announced the launch of its next electric car in 2021, which will support fully autonomous driving features. The “i Next” car will be a 7-Series sedan model. The company believes it is a “new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road,” according to BMW chief executive, Harald Krueger. The company plans to launch i8 Roadster prior to that in 2018.
BMW’s increased commitment to electric vehicles has been seen by some as an attempt to catch up to Tesla, which has a much more rapid timeline for development of EVs. Though Tesla has not come up with a fully autonomous car yet, it will upgrade its entire fleet of vehicles with autopilot software that takes over the wheel on motorways and highways.
BMW is not the only OEM using composites in electric vehicles to catch up with Tesla. Qiantu Motor, one of China’s biggest homegrown automotive design firms, is also taking the plunge into producing its own electric roadster – the K50. According to Bloomberg, the price of the K50 is about a third of the BMW i8, and also features a lightweight carbon-fiber body that improves performance.