BMW Carbon-Fiber JV to Triple Output

The German automaker's supplier of carbon fiber is to sharply expand output at its Washington state plant.

May 9, 2014

2 Min Read
BMW and SGL investing 200 million in fifth and sixth carbonfiber lines
BMW and SGL investing $200 million in fifth and sixth carbon-fiber lines.

MOSES LAKE, WA – BMW and German supplier SGL Group announce ambitious plans to triple capacity for carbon fiber from their joint-venture manufacturing plant here.

SGL, which currently is producing carbon fiber only for BMW niche models, including the recently launched i3 electric vehicle and upcoming i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, now will manufacture enough of the lightweight material for “other model series in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities,” BMW says in a statement ahead of today's groundbreaking for a plant expansion here.

BMW and SGL are investing $200 million to expand Moses Lake's footprint by adding fifth and sixth production lines. The expansion is expected to be complete by early 2015 and add 120 jobs to the plant's 80-strong workforce.

The two auto companies will this summer operate third and fourth production lines here.

“In the course of only four years, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers has managed to become the world's largest carbon-fiber production site,” Andreas Wullner, CEO-SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, says in a statement. “The automotive industry will increasingly turn to carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics because it is a material of the future.”

SGL carbonizes polyacrylonitrile, a synthetic resin known as PAN that is shipped to Washington from MRC SGL Precursor of Otake, Japan. That company is a JV between Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Rayon and SGL Group.

MRC SGL is the exclusive supplier of the required precursor fiber for the project, and the Moses Lake plant is the world’s only facility dedicated to serial production of carbon fiber for automobile bodies.

The plant opened in 2011 and has capacity to produce 3,000 tons (2,721 t) of carbon fiber annually. With the fifth and sixth lines it will be able to produce 9,000 tons (8,165 t) of the material per year, BMW says.

Moses Lake ships the carbon fiber to a second JV plant in Wackersdorf, Germany, where it is turned into lightweight carbon fabrics. The fabrics are made into parts and components at a BMW plant in Landshut, Germany.

Those parts and components are then sent on to Leipzig, Germany, where the i3 and i8 are assembled.

BMW and SGL selected the Moses Lake location because of its proximity to the Grand Coulee Dam, which generates hydropower for the JV facility.

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