BMW’s announcement of a hybrid-electric sports car isn’t the only electric news coming from the automaker today — in fact, the company announced it’s finally broken ground on a plant expansion in Leipzig, Germany, which will allow the company to build its forthcoming Megacity electric city car.
Earlier this year, BMW formally gave the Megacity the green light for production, announcing the car would be assembled in BMW’s Leipzig factory. Although the same plant presently builds other Bimmers, including the 1 Series, the Megacity will apparently receive its own dedicated production area. The expansion, which will run BMW some $565 million, should be completed by 2013.
“By producing the Megacity in Germany,” BMW chairman Dr. Norbert Reithofer said in a prepared statement, “BMW is demonstrating a clear commitment to Germany as a high-tech location. This will be the world’s first volume-produced car with a passenger compartment made from lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), as less weight enables a longer range.”
Although BMW is breaking ground on the Megacity’s final assembly line, the company has been working to establish a supply chain and production venue for the massive quantities of carbon fiber demanded by the Megacity design. In a partnership with SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, BMW opened a plant in Moses Lake, Washington, which is tasked with processing raw polyacrylic fibers (sourced from Japan) into actual carbon fiber. From there, the product is shipped to Wackersdorf, Germany, where the fibers are woven into a usable fabric. Following that, the woven material is shipped to a BMW facility in Landshut, Germany, which crafts the sheets into actual automotive parts.
BMW won’t be building powertrain components for the Megacity in Leipzig (that task is performed by a facility in Dingolfing), but the facility will hire 800 additional employees to produce the EV. BMW plans on cutting the plant’s power and water consumption by 50 and 70 percent, respectively, but until technology advances, the company can’t cut production costs — in fact, Reithofer has indicated the company will lose money on the first-generation of cars.