The Spun Bearing: Leipzig BMW Werk, Active E, and Architecture

BMW-ActiveE

Leipzig BMW Werk The BMW factory at Leipzig is expanding. Leipzig is adding pressing operations for metal panels, molding facilities for the outer skins of …

Leipzig BMW Werk

The BMW factory at Leipzig is expanding. Leipzig is adding pressing operations for metal panels, molding facilities for the outer skins of the i models, and an assembly area for the CFRP panels needed for the passenger cells in the i3 and i8.

Leipzig will, in the very near future, be building the X1, 1ers (including the FWD versions) and both i models. Currently they’re building the X1, E8x 1ers, and F20 1ers. The admin building is slowly being completely surrounded by manufacturing halls. And that’s good for Leipzig.

Leipzig uses a fingers and palm approach to final assembly. Automated work, like windshield, sunroof and rear glass installation, take place in the ‘palm’ (the long narrow strip the fingers attach to). Work that requires human activity occurs in the fingers. As the complexity (or steps required) increases the length of the finger can extended. The assembly area is extremely flexible.

The Spun Bearing: Leipzig BMW Werk, Active E, and Architecture

The expansion of the facility for the i models is underway. BMWBLOG has covered the new CFRP pressing operations, Resin Transfer Molding, here [ http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/08/01/bmw-i-the-trouser-press/ ]. What was interesting to hear from Herr Mueller, Corporate and Governmental Affairs Manager Communications – Leipzig, Berlin, Eisenach, is that the aerospace industry has been lining up to see the facility. Seems BMW may be pioneering a production process for CFRP.

Active E

The Spun Bearing: Leipzig BMW Werk, Active E, and Architecture

While in Leipzig I had an opportunity to sample the Active E in a short drive around the perimeter of the facility. The Active E is the test bed for the electric drivetrain to be used in the i3. First, the i3 will be significantly lighter than the Active E and the weight distribution will be optimized in the i3 also.

Given those handicaps, the Active E is still very much a BMW. Thanks to healthy amounts of torque, available at 0 RPM, the Active E accelerates well from a standstill to the posted speed limit (around 35 MPH). It has decent steering feel for an electrically assisted rack and it feels like a BMW should. That bodes well for the i3.

What took a bit of mental adjustment was the aggressive regenerative braking that occurs when you take your foot completely off the throttle. It decelerates quickly, it is braking, not coasting. In fact, the brake lights come on with lift throttle. And this may be the source of the confusion for the ‘one pedal’ operation. You have to learn to stay on the throttle a bit to coast.

Architecture

The Ricardo Quarterly showed up in the mailbox whist I was overseas and there was a blurb on VW’s modular transverse construction architecture known as MQB. It utilizes a fixed firewall placement (the distance between the front axle centerline and the firewall is fixed). Wheelbase, track, height and length can all be varied, except for the firewall placement. Since VW is heavily invested in FWD offerings, it makes sense.

But BMW doesn’t build cars in the volumes that VW does and they can’t afford to have separate architectures for RWD, FWD, and AWD. They had to find a way to build both FWD/RWD cars from a single architecture and that led to BMW’s unique flexible firewall location being pioneered. Believe it or not, but the 3er and the 1ers (both the RWD 1ers and soon to be Fwd 1ers) are spawned from the same architecture.

It this kind of creativity that keeps BMW in business.

 

  • David A

    Wow! Lots of cool info.

    I still can’t wrap my head around a FWD BMW, but I guess that’s the direction the business is going in order to expand and make money

  • mckillio

    How much better fuel mileage does a FWD application get over a RWD application? What’s general difference in cost?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000477069969 Hugo Becker

      We don’t know the answers to those questions quite yet. But this, the FWD cars, will be where I suspect we’ll see the new 3 cylinder engines. I would expect high 20s city (or possibly low 30s) and high 30s highway for EPA mileage.

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