28th May 2013
Automotive News’ sister publication, Automobilwoche, has interviewed Ulrich Kranz, BMW’s Project i Chief, about the i3 and i8 vehicles and the challenges that making a carbon fiber electric vehicle has created.
We’ve posted a few interesting highlights below but we’d recommend heading over to Automotive News to read the full interview.
How did Project i get started? Did BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer knock on your door one day and say: The two of us need to discuss the future of the automobile?
It wasn’t entirely like that. At that point, some management board workshops were under way and dealing with the future of BMW. A number of initiatives were developed to get BMW in shape for 2020. Project i was an initiative that we carried out as part of our Number One strategy.
Was it already called that?
Its name was already Project i, and in 2007 I got the job of turning it into a reality.
What were you asked to do?
The job was to position BMW for the future — and that was in all fields: from materials to production, from technologies to new vehicle architectures. The agenda included the development of sustainable mobility concepts, new sales channels and marketing concepts, along with acquiring new customers.
Where did you get the idea to construct the passenger compartment of carbon?
We knew that we needed a lightweight vehicle and that we had years of expertise in carbon-fiber reinforced plastics and mixes of materials. We asked ourselves how we could reduce throughput times and the investment in manufacturing through the use of a new vehicle architecture.
Can you cite an example?
One example is the paint shop: a large building involving high investment and long throughput times. If it were no longer needed, we could save a tidy sum of money. The desire for a completely corrosion-free vehicle emerged from the development department. Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic met these standards, but it had to be cost-effective — or we had to compensate for the price somewhere else. A smaller vehicle could get by with a smaller battery, and the battery is considerably more expensive than carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. So one thing led to another.
When did it become clear that the Megacity Vehicle would be a carbon vehicle?
We discussed the issue with the management board in 2008.
What was Project i’s greatest challenge?
This is a very comprehensive project. One is developing a technology separately within one team. Balancing out the entire Project i, considering all the aspects and keeping them all in view, that was each of the participants’ true masterstroke.