BMW i3: Filled with High-Performance Plastic

The BMW i3 may be a sleek, urban electric car but what we find most interesting is the fact that the body and frame are completely made out of carbon-reinforced plastic (CFRP).  There's a lot of "firsts" with this car and we are proud to have had played a role in several of them.

"By bringing together all our plastic expertise in the division Performance Materials, we can offer customized solutions to innovative customers such as the BMW Group and their suppliers worldwide as well as support them during component construction," said Raimar Jahn, head of BASF's Performance Materials division. "With the BMW i3, the BMW Group has taken a ground-breaking step into the future of the automotive industry, and BASF's intelligent solutions are making a key contribution here."

We supply the versatile plastics and contributed to the following components:

The seat backrest

The plastic seat backrest saves weight and increases interior space.
The plastic seat backrest saves weight and increases interior space.

The seat backrest in the driver and passenger seats are the first injection molded and uncoated structural components made from polyamide to have a visible surface and to be used in the vehicle interior.  These plastic seat backrests save weight, as they weigh only 2kg, and increase interior space. The skinny seat is becoming an increasingly popular trend and manufacturers such as Toyota, Cadillac and Ford have incorporated slimmed down seats into their design as well.

In the BMW i3, the seat backrest owes its final, complex and, above all, very slim shape to the early use of BASF's simulation tool, Ultrasim®, which helped test the backrest, release lever and belt guide, and calculated behavior in crash simulations.

The multifunctional structural body parts

The BMW i3's carbon body contains polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) structural parts between the inner and outer shell. The largest component and first of its kind can be found in the rear-side area, aside from its load-bearing function, the part also keeps the two body shells separate and forms the rear opening for the side window.

The rear seat shell

The self-supporting rear seat shell is made from our Elastolit® polyurethane system and for the first time, carbon fibers are combined with a polyurethane matrix. This component includes the cupholder attachment and the storage tray and only has a wall thickness of 1.4 millimeters.

The roof frame

The whole roof, including the A-pillar, is reinforced using the structural foam Elastolit® D. The pressure resistant foam is manufactured to create a carbon sandwiched composite, supporting the overall structural rigidity of the vehicle.

BASF contributed to many of the innovative plastic components on the BMW i3. BASF contributed to many of the innovative plastic components on the BMW i3.

It doesn't stop there!

The electrical and electronic applications are made of Ultramid®, the vehicle interior is made of Elastoflex®, the optional sliding roof has the UV and weather-resistant glass encapsulation system Elastolit applied and the front and back axle suspension feature lightweight spring aids made of Cellasto, all of which are BASF products produced by the Performance Materials division.