BMW i3 increases production to meet high demand, will double 2014 projections
BMW board member Harald Krueger indicated in a statement that the company will increase production of the electric i3 to 100 vehicles per day, up from the previous daily rate of 70 vehicles (via AutoNews). He cited demand in the United States, saying “the United States will be the biggest market for the i3.”
Although BMW previously planned to build only 10,000 units of the i3 in 2014, it now appears production will be closer to 20,000 this year.
The full capacity of the advanced assembly plant in Leipzig, Germany is about 30,000 units annually. The rest of this year will see the plant running at close to full capacity, and 2015 will be the first year to see the maximum number of 30,000 i3s built and sold.
This news comes on the heels of the February announcement that partner SGL would double carbon fiber production to support demand for the carbon fiber-intensive i3 and the upcoming i8 as well as BMW’s legacy vehicles that will see increased use of the material.
Early demand outstripped the company’s expectations for the funky all-electric city car that starts at $41,350. BMW’s risky but masterfully executed transition to carbon fiber has resulted in a reasonably priced light and strong vehicle that is constrained to medium-series production due to the nature of its manufacturing processes.
Carbon fiber reinforced plastic has almost magical properties and has enabled BMW to keep the weight of the i3 down to just over 2,600 pounds. Without the battery, the rest of the vehicle weighs a feathery 2,100 pounds; as a result, despite a motor producing just 167 hp the 0-60 acceleration time is a brisk 7.2 seconds. Range is expected to be 80-100 miles.
The main issues with use of carbon fiber are production rate and cost; it is an expensive material that requires time to properly cure, so parts are produced on the order of minutes rather than the seconds required to stamp steel components.
BMW has worked hard to address these two issues, and as a result has created an excellent vehicle by most accounts. The company is fond of saying that the i stands for innovation; though production will be limited to 30,000 units per year, the i3 represents a statement that BMW is ready for the future.