A new energy efficient car made of Washington state composites came to the U.S. Capitol today as part of a visit hosted by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Cantwell joined BMW North America President Ludwig Willisch to test drive the new BMW i8 plug-in hybrid car, which is made of carbon fiber manufactured in a Moses Lake plant that has created more than 80 local jobs. Cantwell and Willisch were joined by Senator Jim Risch (R-ID).
"The BMW i3 and i8 have the first two carbon fiber car frames in a mass market vehicle," Cantwell said. "We're proud the carbon fiber for these groundbreaking cars is made right in Moses Lake, Washington. BMW's investment means jobs in Grant County and it means the State of Washington will continue to lead the way on lightweight composite technology that reduces fuel consumption and increases efficiency."
The Moses Lake manufacturing plant was opened in 2011 by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, a joint venture of the SGL Group and BMW. It employs more than 80 workers, and is scheduled to expand to 200 full-time employees, according to BMW.
Already the second-largest BMW facility in the United States, the plant is undergoing a $200 million expansion that will expand its capacity to 9,000 tons of carbon fiber per year. When the expansion of Moses Lake's facility is complete, it will be the world's largest carbon fiber plant.
Using carbon fiber instead of steel can lower a vehicle's weight by 50 to 70 percent, improving its battery range and fuel economy. Carbon fiber is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel, offering carmakers a way to help cut vehicle weight and carbon emissions.
On November 7, 2013, Cantwell highlighted the work of Moses Lake and Washington state on composite manufacturing at the Washington, D.C., rollout of the BMW i3. The i3 was the first car with a carbon fiber frame sold on the mass market.