One of the most controversial articles we have published at AUTO Connected Car News is our expose from Madame X who decided to return her leased BMW i3. She thought the interior design looked cheap, she also found charging to be nuisance. In fact, a tear down from Munro Associates shows that the the car was cheaply made to cut costs but also increase efficiency and battery range. The recycled simple looks of the BMW i3, however, don’t tell how revolutionary the design is. Tear down videos from Munro Associates point out the innovative design techniques used in the BMW i3 even though many parts are held in place with glue.
BMW cut the costs of the interior by clever design techniques. Most of the systems controls are in the center touchscreen, reducing the cost of knobs and buttons. BMW eliminated screws and used snap fits including the connection for the rear view mirror. With fewer screws there is less weight and less installation time.
Overall, the interior of the BMW i3 is a clever design. The design is environmentally friendly using recycled and natural materials. The doors and instrument panel trim are made from Kenaf Plant fiber that gives it the look of a wool blanket. Not shown in the video is the Eucalyptus wood from certified plantations in Europe provides the raw material for parts of the instrument panel.
LED lights are used through interior that use less electricity and extend driving range.
Sandy Munro says the BMW i3 will change the way the cars are built.
The biggest game changer of the BMW i3 is the body is made of carbon fiber. Attachment points are actually glued onto the structure of the car allowing BMW to change styling. The body structure is built in a mold to ensure precise dimensions. Holes are cut by water jets so line workers don’t have to change drill bits because carbon fiber can wear out drill bits in a very short time.
For the small overlap test, BMW added a hook or initiator on the front suspension members. When car hits the small overlap barrier, it hits the initiator which brakes off the head of bolt, holding the front suspension in place, that pivots the front wheel away from the car preventing from intruding into the front passenger compartment.
The front bumper has serrations that bite into the front frame rails during the the front overlap crash test. It’s simple solution that eliminates the need for more brackets or structure.
The BMW i3 battery pack is a structural member of the chassis, yet it is very easy to remove.
It’s easy to replace the battery cells, allowing technicians to replace individual cells. The battery modules are glued with structural adhesive so strong that they can barely be chiseled apart.
BMW designed an innovative heating and cooling system for the battery pack. On hot days the systems uses 134A from the air conditioning system, distributed through a lattice work of aluminum tubes.
On cold days the battery heats itself with a resistive heating element, powered by electricity from the battery. For safety, the Life Module of BMW’s LifeDrive vehicle architecture is a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell and incorporated safety features.
Munro Associates offers a extensive report with 40,000 pages for the price of about 11 BMW i3s with tax.