BMW/Bcomp : Replacing carbon with flax

Replacing carbon with flax

Lighweight design BMW-M replaces carbon with flax (Source: BMW)
Lighweight design BMW-M replaces carbon with flax (Source: BMW)

The BMW iFE.20 is the car manufacturer’s latest Formula E racing car. In its cooling shaft, the company is now using flax fiber solutions from Bcomp instead of carbon for the first time, and therefore a renewable raw material. According to BMW M GmbH, a member of the BMW Group, both Munich/Germany, the lightweight material has greater absorption and impact resistance than carbon fibers, which can be advantageous on the often bumpy street circuits that host Formula E races.  
BMW is consistently using Formula E as an innovative platform for series development – in this instance for testing flax in extreme weather conditions. The iFE.20 is the first racing car in which BMW is using this material.
With the new BMW M4 GT4, BMW M Motorsport is taking their use of sustainable composite solutions to the next level. There is no other GT racing car in series production matching the amount of natural fiber composite parts.  
The new materials were developed by BMW M Motorsport partner Bcomp Ltd., Fribourg/Switzerland. Taking the findings and experience gained on the track as a basis, these new material technologies will also find their way into BMW M models and BMW M Performance Parts.
»Product sustainability is increasing in importance in the world of motorsport too.«
Franciscus van Meel, CEO, BMW M GmbH

Bcomp’s ampliTex and powerRibs flax fiber solutions can be found throughout the interior on the dashboard and center console, as well as on bodywork components such as the hood, front splitter, doors, trunk, and rear wing. Aside from the roof, there are almost no carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components that were not replaced by the renewable high-performance flax materials.
BMW-M interior (Source: BMW)
BMW-M interior (Source: BMW)
Inspired by leaf veins, the powerRibs reinforcement technology developed by Bcomp maximizes stiffness with minimal weight by creating a 3D structure on one side of a thin-walled shell element. This enables a decrease in the amount of base material used, thereby reducing weight, costs and consumables in production. The ampliTex reinforcements add a visible layer of flax fibers as a carbon-neutral replacement for the conventional covering material.
Combining the 2 materials makes it possible to cut the amount of plastic used for interior paneling by up to 70% and at the same time to lower CO2 emissions by as much as 60%. The result is more sustainable vehicle components, whose failure mode without sharp debris and splinters has the additional benefit of increasing safety over traditional composites. The natural fiber composites will also find their way into the BMW M Performance Parts.

(Source: BMW)
(Source: BMW)
Employing renewable raw materials and natural fibers such as hemp, kenaf or flax minimizes material usage while also achieving a weight reduction of up to 50% over conventional materials. This in turn helps to lower the energy consumption of the vehicles in which they are used. What is more, the natural materials bring down the calculated CO2 figure, as their original plants have absorbed CO2 while growing and released oxygen.

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