WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
This is the first commercial car that’s designed to be totally recyclable and re-usable. And hopefully the first of many.
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Ever the pioneer BMW has unveiled the i Vision Circular concept car, which represents its vision for the sustainable compact car of 2040. It was revealed at the IAA Mobility 2021 event in Munich today.
One of the key pillars of BMW’s vision for the future is increasing the quantity of recycled and secondary waste material it uses in the construction of its cars from the current figure of 30% to 50% in the coming years – something that’ sorely needed if we are ever going to stand a chance of creating a sustainable world and avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change.
As a result, the i Vision Circular is made from 100% recycled or secondary material, as befits its name, which is derived from the idea of the circular economy in which materials are constantly reused and recycled. According to BMW, the four themes underpinning the concept’s design are “Rethink, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.”
Rethink involved the company examining its approach to building cars and looking for ways to achieve greater materials sustainability, while reduce meant looking for extraneous components and materials in the car and cutting them out. Gone, with the i Vision are, for instance, chrome, leather, and even exterior paint.
Introducing the iVision Circular
For re-use, BMW focused on looking at ways to increase the car’s longevity by constantly upgrading and improving it via over-the-air updates, and recycle meant looking at ways in which end-of-life cars could be disassembled more easily, for example by avoiding the use of glue and bonding and instead using quick-release fasteners.
Externally, the lights, grilles and chrome surrounds have been replaced with two screens shaped like BMW’s traditional double-kidney grille, incorporating the headlights. All badging has been replaced by laser etching.
At around four metres in length, the i Vision Circular is a little smaller than BMW’s current 1 Series. The bodywork is hewn from secondary aluminium and, rather than paint, the metal is gold-anodised, giving it a golden lustre and allowing the designers to eschew carbon-intensive paint. Heat-treated steel surfaces towards the rear give a bluish effect.
The tyres are made from natural rubber and are slightly transparent, with a purplish tinge created by adding recycled rubber particles. Along the base of the windows, instead of a chrome strip a narrow screen provides illumination to those entering the vehicle in the dark.
The rear lights have been replaced with screens, which become completely dark and opaque when the car is switched off — apart from the BMW-badge graphic.
Inside, instead of the usual display screens is a 3D printed “crystal body” sitting in the middle of the dashboard. It reacts to hand movements and information is beamed onto the base of the windscreen via a head-up display.
Because of the large glass canopy and almost complete lack of clutter, the four-seat interior feels bright and airy, the only physical controls appearing to be the wooden steering wheel and two pedals.
Recycling is the name of the game in the cabin, too, as the seats and carpets are made from recycled plastics, with recycled wood and aluminium providing dashboard accents.
There’s no glue or bonding either, as everything is fastened together by easily disassembled connectors. BMW says off-cuts from production would all be fed back into the manufacturing process for use later on.
Under the skin, the i Vision Circular’s solid-state battery is 100% recyclable and made from materials sourced from elsewhere in the production loop.
The concept also features vehicle-to-grid charging, meaning that the battery can feed power back into the grid when needed, for example, during a power outage or at periods of peak demand.