BMW i and sustainability


BMW i and sustainability

Sustainability has played a defining role in the BMW Group’s strategy and operations ever since the early 1970s. Since that time, many production processes have been optimised and many innovative technology packages incorporated into the company’s vehicles, which have significantly reduced emissions both during the manufacturing process and during the useful life of the vehicle. […]

Sustainability has played a defining role in the BMW Group’s strategy and operations ever since the early 1970s. Since that time, many production processes have been optimised and many innovative technology packages incorporated into the company’s vehicles, which have significantly reduced emissions both during the manufacturing process and during the useful life of the vehicle.


But sustainability is not confined solely to environmental issues. The BMW Group addresses all three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. Just how successful the BMW Group has been in its actions to promote sustainability is clear not least from its position in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index: in 2010 the BMW Group headed this ranking list for the sixth time running, making it the most sustainable company in the automotive sector.

Integrated perspective.

For BMW i, sustainability is of pivotal importance and something it aspires to throughout the entire value chain. From the earliest strategic and planning stages, therefore, clearly defined sustainability targets were set for the BMW i vehicles. All three sustainability aspects were addressed across the entire spectrum, from purchasing, development and production to sales and marketing.

The BMW i3 Concept proves beyond doubt how successfully these sustainability targets were achieved. The life cycle global warming potential (CO2e) of the BMW i3 Concept, assuming a European electricity mix (EU 25), is at least a third lower than for a highly efficient combustion-engined vehicle in the same segment. If the vehicle is powered by renewable electricity, the improvement increases to well over 50 per cent. This is reflected in a large number of innovative measures relating to the development, production and recycling stage. Some of these solutions were developed by suppliers. In this way BMW i is setting new standards of sustainability across the entire value chain.

BMW i and sustainability.

Sustainability in the development process.

With its innovative LifeDrive architecture and extensive use of intelligent lightweight design, the BMW i3 Concept is purpose-built for electric mobility. This enables an extended driving range and even more efficient zero-emission electric operation – in other words, more miles per kilowatt of electricity. At the same time, sustainability is also reflected in the high-class interior, where for the first time the use of renewable materials is clearly visible.

The BMW i3 Concept also has a high recycled material content: 25 per cent of the thermoplastic components by weight have been replaced by recycled and renewable materials, while 10 per cent of the CFRP in the Life module are likewise recycled. The use of recycled CFRP in this form is currently unique.

Sustainable production.

The BMW Group has for a long time been investing huge efforts in developing a sustainable production system. In the manufacture of its BMW i vehicles the company will be going even further. Compared with the already highly efficient BMW Group production network, the future production plant for BMW i vehicles – Leipzig – will achieve additional 70 per cent savings on water consumption and 50 per cent savings on energy consumption per vehicle produced. Furthermore, 100 per cent of the energy used in production of the BMW i will be renewable.

Sustainable purchasing.

Further opportunity for reducing global warming potential across the entire product lifecycle can be achieved through a carefully focused purchasing strategy for the lightweight materials aluminium and CFRP. Using aluminium produced from 100 per cent renewable energy, also known as secondary aluminium, can achieve savings of 50 to 80 per cent of CO2e compared with a conventional manufacturing process. More than 80 per cent of the aluminium used in the BMW i3 Concept is thus produced either using renewable energy or from secondary material. In CFRP manufacturing, too, BMW i always uses the most eco-friendly processes. The CFRP produced by our joint venture partner at the Moses Lake plant (USA) is made using electricity generated entirely from renewable hydroelectric power. BMW i suppliers must likewise demonstrate that their business practices are sustainable.

Recycling as the norm.

All BMW i processes conform to the principles of closed-loop material recycling and waste avoidance. End-to-end recycling saves resources and conserves raw materials for future use. Another priority for the development team is to ensure that all structures and processes are designed to facilitate component reuse and material and energy recycling.

Social sustainability at BMW i.

Just like the environmental and economic aspects of sustainability, the social aspects too were taken into account at an early stage in product development and design. Here BMW i is building on the existing very high standards of the BMW Group and is systematically reinforcing its commitment to three key issues: responsibility for employees today and in the future, commitment to ethical standards in the supply chain, and social responsibility.

BMW i stands for a new approach to premium mobility. This mobility concept is geared to the demands of the future and to the needs of users, and it systematically addresses these challenges today. The new generation of vehicles calls for a new generation of driver assistance systems that significantly boost active safety and convenience.

Proactive Front Protection.

For that reason the camera-based proactive Front Protection system, offered in both vehicles, provides active safety which helps to prevent accidents or mitigate injuries. The system, which operates across the entire speed range, can detect a collision risk with preceding vehicles and warns the driver in good time, so that he can sharply reduce his speed and, if possible, still avoid an accident. In the speed range from 0 to 60 km/h (37 mph) the system can now also detect pedestrians, and in addition to warning the driver it also assists by performing automatic emergency braking.

Driver assistance systems for urban driving – Parking Assistant and Traffic Jam Assistant.

Since the BMW i3 Concept is designed mainly for urban operation, the vehicle features two further driver assistance systems – the Parking Assistant and the Traffic Jam Assistant. The Parking Assistant now relieves the driver of the entire parking manoeuvre, performing acceleration and braking automatically. If multiple manoeuvres are required, the vehicle can also switch between forward and reverse direction without the driver’s intervention.

The Traffic Jam Assistant, on the other hand, makes driving less stressful under monotonous road conditions. By letting the vehicle “go with the flow”, it allows the driver to get to his destination in a more relaxed state of mind. The Traffic Jam Assistant maintains a specified following distance from the vehicle in front, and in particularly heavy traffic can autonomously control the speed of the vehicle right down to a standstill while providing active steering input. This enables the vehicle to help the driver stay on course right up to a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) – provided he keeps at least one hand on the steering wheel.

BMW i – visionary mobility and mobility services.

The BMW i remote functions.

In addition to these driver assistance systems, application-based remote functions allow the car to be accessed using a smartphone. As well as familiar functions such as remote locking and unlocking, CarFinder and Google Local Search, the driver can also draw on new features designed specifically for electric vehicles, such as remote-controlled charging and remote-controlled thermal preconditioning of the battery pack and vehicle interior. Remote-controlled charging allows the user to start the charging process at a time that can be determined by setting the journey start time.

This function also allows the user to check the battery charge status at any time. Then there is the intelligent thermal preconditioning system, which allows the driver to bring both the battery pack and the vehicle interior to the optimal operating temperature before the start of the journey.

There are two advantages to starting the journey with a preconditioned vehicle. Firstly, ensuring that the battery pack is at its optimal operating temperature right from the start maximises battery power and driving range, and secondly the driver can enjoy pleasant temperatures in the interior from the outset of the journey, both in summer and in winter.

Optimal efficiency and comfort – ECO PRO mode and ECO PRO + mode.

In both the BMW i3 Concept and the BMW i8 Concept, ECO PRO mode allows the driver to increase the electric driving range of the vehicle and reduce power consumption at the press of a button. In ECO PRO mode the drive settings and those of the convenience systems are adjusted for even more efficient operation.

Moreover, with ECO PRO + mode the BMW i3 Concept engages a drive mode uncompromisingly geared to maximising the driving range if, due to unforeseen circumstances such as a prolonged traffic hold-up, the electric driving range is shortened to the point where the driver can no longer be sure of reaching his destination. In this mode the main electrically powered convenience functions such as the air conditioning and heating systems are as far as possible deactivated, and auxiliary power consumers such as the heated seats and heated mirrors are shut down altogether. However, the systems continue running with minimal functionality, so that safety inside and outside the vehicle is in no way compromised. For example, the window demisting function remains operational to maintain clear visibility in winter.

Treading new paths – navigation by BMW i.

The two navigation modes “Last Mile Navigation” and “Intermodal Route Planning” are designed particularly with urban environments in mind. Last Mile Navigation continues to navigate the driver even after he gets out of the vehicle, by sending instructions to his smartphone which will direct him quickly and reliably on the “last lap”, for example from the car park to the museum entrance. And when the driver is ready to head back, he can quickly locate his parked vehicle using the CarFinder function. Intermodal Route Planning summarises the various options of getting to a given destination by car and public transport. This BMW Group system integrates the vehicle, the different modes of local public transport and information about current parking availability.

In addition, intelligent navigation functions in the BMW i8 Concept enable optimal energy management in the vehicle, thereby significantly reducing fuel consumption. As soon as a destination is entered into the navigation system, the vehicle calculates the best way to manage the energy consumption of the two power units along the route. On different sections of the route, the vehicle characteristics can then be modified so that the drive units are managed either for maximum efficiency or for optimal performance.

BMW i mobility services.

As well as the vehicles themselves, BMW i also stands for comprehensive and custom-designed mobility services which can optimise personal mobility even for customers who do not own their own vehicle. These mobility services focus, for example, on solutions that make more efficient use of existing parking space, intelligent navigation systems that can also offer location-based information, an Intermodal Route Planning service and the “DriveNow” premium car-sharing service. What all these services have in common is that they are designed to help users reach their destination sooner, more reliably and more conveniently. To this end, BMW i offers an integrated range of services which can be implemented individually and with immediate effect.

DriveNow – the first premium car-sharing service.

Starting in June 2011, the DriveNow joint venture between the BMW Group and Sixt AG is offering a state-of-the-art mobility service, initially in Munich, whose key features include high-efficiency premium vehicles and an extensive range of services. The special highlight of this service is that vehicles do not have to be picked up from and returned to specific locations but can be hired and left wherever the customer wishes. This clearly differentiates DriveNow from competitor products. Customers can check vehicle availability either on the internet, via a smartphone app or simply when passing by on the street. Conventional car keys are not required either, since the DriveNow vehicles can be unlocked by means of a chip inserted in the driver’s licence and started using a starter button. Following Munich, further major European cities will get this service later in the year. In the longer term, there are also plans to extend this car-sharing service to other continents as well.

BMW i Ventures.

In addition to developing and offering its own services, the BMW Group also provides services in partnership with other companies and makes strategic investments in mobility service providers. With this in mind, BMW i Ventures is providing backing for new, promising start-up companies, ensuring that development work on high-potential innovations continues and that these developments can eventually be put to use. MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse are the first two start-ups in which BMW i Ventures has invested. MyCityWay is a mobile app that provides users with information on public transport, parking availability and local entertainment for over 50 cities in the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. Using the ParkatmyHouse internet platform, on the other hand, private individuals can rent out their driveway or private parking space on an occasional or permanent basis. This dedicated parking management service makes private parking spaces affordable and takes the pressure off on-street parking.

With its car-independent mobility services and systematic promotion of innovation, BMW has paved the way for a comprehensive and innovative mobility experience. And it doesn’t stop there: at the same time the BMW Group is also working to intelligently integrate these various services.

BMW at the North American International Motor Show NAIAS

Gerald Ferreira

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Published : Thursday December 15, 2011

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