Johnson Controls, a global supplier of automotive seating, interiors and electronics, is providing a series of innovative door panels, seat structures and instrument clusters for the new BMW 3 Series that utilise a combination of natural fibers and plastic materials making them 20 percent lighter than conventional components. The new design saves between 3 and 4 kg (~9lbs) from the driver’s seat depending on the model.
“With our innovative products, we are helping BMW make the new 3 Series comfortable and sustainable. We offer high-quality, lighter weight components that reduce fuel consumption,” said Beda Bolzenius, president of Johnson Controls Automotive Experience. “We also use renewable and environmentally-sound raw materials in the interior components.”
The non-visible door panel elements for the new BMW 3 Series sedan and sports wagon models are largely made of wood fiber. The natural fiber carrier is directly molded with plastic. This innovative production method makes the door panel considerably lighter. A state-of-the-art process known as groove lamination is used to apply the fabric or leather trim on the door panel. This process involves the trim being joined in recesses, eliminating the need for an additional component and further reducing weight.
The Lightweight BMW Door from Johnson Controls
Four special features characterize the seat structure of the new BMW 3 Series. The use of high-strength steel means it is both stable and lightweight. The low seat back pivot point makes the seat particularly comfortable as it snugly fits the occupant’s back. The structure also offers a very finely graduated recliner to ensure the best sitting position. Adjusting motors using four-pole technology, in some cases with rare-earth magnets that have a stronger magnetic field than conventional ferrite magnets, are used in the electrically adjustable seats.
This means they need a smaller installation space and are approximately 200 grams lighter. With up to four motors per seat, this also enables a significant weight reduction. The seat structures are modular in design. They are available with four and eight-way functionality for four and five-door models. There is also a version with an easy-entry function for two-door models.
During a discussion with The Engineer, Ulrich Andree, Communications Manager at Johnson Controls, said “If you take just one component from a car, its weight saving potential at first glance might not look like a lot but if you add up various components and systems you end up with a reasonable amount”.