BMW is building the world’s largest carbon fiber plant in the United States to supply production plants in Germany for what may be the most ambitious plan in the automotive industry to use light weight carbon composites.
SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture of BMW and the SGL Group, is investing an additional $200 million in a new plant in Moses Lake, Washington to have a medium‐term capacity of 9,000 metric tons per year. Toray, which is the primary CF supplier to Boeing’s Dreamliner 787, is the largest global producer of carbon fiber with a capacity of about 33,000 tons per year.
At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for the BMW i, with an annual output of 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. This summer, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will commission two more lines in Moses Lake, doubling the plant’s capacity to 6,000 tons per year. The new addition will bring the number of production lines to six. The energy needed for the carbon fiber production is fully generated from hydropower.
So far this year, BMW’s Leipzig, Germany plant has built over 5,000 BMW i3 vehicles. At present, the production output stands at 100 units a day. BMW has been using carbon composites in its BMW M models for the past ten years.
The BMW supply chain looks like this: Precursor, which is based on polyacrylnitrile fiber, is made by a joint venture between SGL Group and Mitsubishi Rayon in Otake, Japan. Polyacrylnitrile fiber is turned into carbon fiber in Moses Lake. This material is then processed at the second joint venture site in Wackersdorf, Germany, and turned into textile carbon fiber layers, the starting point for the production of CFRP body parts at BMW plants in Landshut and Leipzig.
BMW guarantees certain minimum purchasing volumes at contractually agreed conditions in the context of safeguarding the overall project. BMW provides debt financing.