In their efforts to improve sustainability, automakers aren't solely fixated on powertrains.
The so-called circular economy, where existing materials and products are used as long as possible, is another area where automakers are looking to reduce their environmental impact.
BMW Group has been one of the more active automakers in this area. In August, its Mini brand showed off a Mini Cooper SE concept developed by first stripping back the car to its bare metal frame and then adding back only essential parts while also replacing some of these with more sustainable options.
Now its BMW brand has gone a step further with the i Vision Circular concept—a vehicle constructed from almost 100% recycled materials and is also 100% recyclable. And yes it's an electric vehicle, but there's no rare earths used here. For instance, the battery is a solid-state design that relies on materials almost entirely sourced from the current recycling loop.
Using recycled materials also brings an added financial bonus in some cases, according to BMW Group CEO Oliver Zipse. With rising inflation leading to higher commodity prices, automakers have an incentive to reuse materials.
“This is a question of economic sustainability too, as the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources,” he said in a statement.
Developing the i Vision Circular concept wasn't a matter of simply swapping conventional parts for recyclable materials. In order to make the concept 100% recyclable, the designers also needed to rethink how cars are put together so that they can also be disassembled easily. Furthermore, in order to minimize the amount of waste and offcuts, many components are manufactured to fit exactly using processes such as 3D printing. Any surplus material can then be systematically fed back into the materials cycle.
While a vehicle like the i Vision Circular concept isn't envisaged to be a reality before 2040, some of the ideas of the concept will be used for BMW's next-generation electric vehicles, known as the Neue Klasse (German for “New Class”), which are due to start arriving from 2025. The Neue Klasse is also due to introduce new design forms for BMW, though the i Vision Circular concept isn't a preview of this, according to the automaker.
BMW presented the i Vision Circular concept on Monday at the Munich auto show. For more from the show, head to our dedicated hub.