BMW and SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will triple production of carbon fiber to 9,000 metric tons per year at Moses Lake, Wash. (pictured), making the site the world’s largest carbon fiber plant, the companies say.
High demand for the lightweight material in automotive production is fueling the $200 million site expansion, scheduled to be complete by early 2015.
At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with an annual output of about 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. The expansion will allow BMW to apply carbon fiber material in other model series, the companies say.
Carbon fiber reinforced plastics play a key role in reducing a vehicle’s weight and thus its fuel consumption and carbon emissions, BMW says.
The energy needed for the carbon fiber production at Moses Lake is generated from hydropower.
The wind, aerospace, construction and mass transit industries are using more large lightweight structures, a trend that bodes well for the lightweight composites market such as carbon fiber, according to analysis published earlier this year by Frost & Sullivan.
In February, the US Department of Energy made available up to $12 million in funding to advance the production of carbon fiber material from renewable non-food-based feedstocks such as agricultural residues and woody biomass.