BMW flashes a carbon-fiber wheel of its near future

Matt Davis
February 26, 2014

A few days ago, BMW held a press introduction of various carbon-fiber accessories, designed to eventually filter their way into several BMW, Rolls-Royce, and maybe even Mini models. The best of the bunch was this handsome full carbon-fiber wheel, shown here in 20-inch size, set to join the options list for BMW's "i" series electric vehicles by the end of 2014.

This aero wheel design goes through all of the same stages of production as the all-important passenger safety cells of all BMW i cars. The eventual asking price for these sweeties is yet unknown, but hold on to your heart medication. Carbon fiber has been the material of the future in cars for a couple of decades now, but using it in wheels has several hurdles — not just cost but fragility; you can dent a metal wheel, but a plastic one shatters.

This application of BMW Group's new carbon-fiber philosophy for lightweight everything on the road to big jumps in energy efficiency creates wheels that are 25 percent lighter than the equivalent dimension wheel made of their carbon-aluminum combo standard on i models; versus the equivalent forged aluminum wheel, weight savings hit 35 percent.

I picked up the cast aluminum, forged aluminum, hybrid carbon-aluminum, and then this carbon-fiber wheel. The carbon-fiber wheel was dramatically lighter, a huge potential benefit not just for efficiency but for handing.

What about a X5 SUV or for a big 7 Series L? BMW experts say these wheels will fit those massive models without any additional stress risks or safety issues.

And those parallel parking scuff marks? Easier to get rid of them, with the proper resins worked correctly, than losing them from any aluminum wheelset.