At the 2014 Washington Auto Show, January 22, 2024, Green Car Journal will name one technology as winner of the 2014 Green Car Technology if the Year Award.
There are ten nominees with some pretty impressive technological contributions to green cars, which we’ll be considering over the next couple of weeks. We started with the Acura RLX’s SH-AWD Powertrain and the new Audi 3.0ℓ TDI Diesel Engine, which offer the performance that drivers crave, yet the fuel economy that drivers need. Today, let’s talk about a component that drivers will never see or hear, but contributes to better fuel economy and passenger safety, as well as cheaper repair costs, the CFRP (Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic) Safety Cell in the BMW i3.
The BMW i3 is a small EREV (extended-range electric vehicle) that makes use of some technology that has been restricted pretty much to the racing circuits, CFRP, which is both light and strong. On the track, lighter composite materials make for better acceleration, which means more power from the engine is put to forward momentum instead of overcoming the car’s own weight. On the highway, lighter vehicles make for less rolling resistance and better fuel economy, exactly what a green car should do. The BMW i3′s CFRP Safety Cell takes the place of a traditional welded body, for an overall lighter vehicle.
In a green car, especially an electric vehicle, such as the BMW i3, the CFRP Safety Cell is not only lighter, but stronger, as well. The result is an electric vehicle that has more range* than its small lithium-ion battery might suggest, which is important, but also a safe vehicle, which is even more important. BMW’s use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic achieves both of these aims admirably in the BMW i3 EREV.
* – Some have suggested that, in an electric vehicle, heavier might actually be better when it comes to regenerative braking and overall stability. On the other hand, the most-efficient electric vehicles are also the lightest. I would guess there are two sides to this that must be very carefully balanced.