If like us, you spent a large amount of time as a child taking your family’s prized electronics and gadgets apart to see just what makes them work, you’ll probably agree that the engineers at Munro & Associates have one of the best jobs in the world: taking things apart to see what makes them tick.
Located on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, the company’s remit is simple: help automakers and business analysts from around the world deconstruct some of the world’s top vehicles to figure out how they were made, which construction methods were used, and most importantly, how much each cost to build. Just like gadget repair site iFixit.com when it produces its famous gadget teardown videos, Munro & Associates takes complex production vehicles and boils it down to an impressive list of parts and prices.
Usually, Munro & Associates waits for a paying customer to commission an in-depth reverse engineering of a rival’s car before breaking out the wrenches and its experienced team of engineers. When the revolutionary BMW i3 electric car launched, company CEO A. Sandy Munro decided that the company would invest the required $1 million in teardown costs before it received a single commission, just to see how revolutionary it truly was.
As we detailed in January, initial teardown revealed a car that was, as Munro explained “the most advanced vehicle on the planet.” Calling it as “revolutionary as the Model T Ford,” Munro & Associates praised the BMW i3’s lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic construction and lithium-ion battery pack, saying that its innovative design meant that it would be profitable after just 20,000 units had been made. To prove its point, Munro & Associates shared a highly-polished teardown video, covering the vehicle’s overall construction.
Now, as GreenCarReports details, the firm is back with three new videos which offer some more in-depth analysis on BMW’s first mass-produced plug-in car.
The videos, which were released quietly at the start of February and we’ll admit to have missing to this point, focus on three key points of the BMW i3 design: its Carbon-Fiber chassis; its unique recycled interior; and its modular lithium-ion battery pack.
Referring to the construction, Munro & Associates says that the BMW i3’s carbon fibre body is ‘perfect,’ saying that it would be impossible to build something of identical design in traditional materials like aluminum or steel.
Most noticeable is the way in which body mounting points are glued to the vehicle’s moulded chassis. Rather than requiring BMW to change the entire chassis in the event of a redesign, the firm says BMW could simply reposition body mounting points as required, making it easier to respond to design changes and driver tastes as required. It also makes it far easier for BMW to produce derivative models, such as a wagon variant or two-door version.
Also worthy of praise is the way in which BMW has designed a special curved metal piece called an ‘initiator’ which sits behind the front bumper and bolts into the front suspension mount. In the event of a frontal impact, the initiator is designed to shear the bolt holding the lower suspension assembly in place, pivoting the front wheel out of the way of whatever the vehicle has hit.
Examining the interior, the engineering company says BMW has managed to dramatically lower overall production costs of the i3 by using clever design elements rather than deleting high-end content.
Using a touch-screen system with on-screen soft buttons rather than discrete switches helped cut a massive amount of additional wiring, while single piece mouldings with snap-fit mounts saved BMW both parts and time during the construction process. Even the vehicle’s interior lighting system — traditionally incandescent bulbs in other vehicles — are entirely LED-based, saving power over the lifetime of the vehicle.
For the battery pack, BMW earned praise from Munro & Associates for its modular battery pack design, making it easy for engineers to replace individual faulty modules rather than the entire battery pack.
The modules themselves, connected to the rest of the pack by connectors which the firm said were “unlike any others in the industry” were also found to be secured using super-high strength vibration-proof adhesives, ensuring minimal damage from vibrations during the lifetime of the car. The innovative rail-based active thermal management system — with tiny holes along the length of each rail — provides air-based cooling during the summer using the same refrigerant as the vehicle’s main air conditioning system. In the winter, embedded resistive pads provide heat to the pack, eliminating the need for complex water-based thermal management systems.
If you’re a BMW i3 owner, we’re curious to see what you think of the construction process that your car has gone through — and more importantly what BMW’s innovative approach to plug-in vehicles will mean in the future for other plug-in cars.
And remember. Now that someone else has taken your car apart, there’s no need for you to.
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