When I say officially, I mean it. The BMW i3 got ISO certificates 14040/14044 from Germany's respected TÜV inspectors on the car's carbon footprint and product life cycle, and it's very good news for polar bears.
Some call it ugly, others the most important car in decades. But I just love BMW's i3 for many reasons. The curved wood dash is one of them. The fact that it's the first carbon fiber mass-production car is another. Having said that, when electric car manufacturers start bragging about their tiny carbon footprint, I'm usually the first to call it bullshit.
I approached the i3 with the same skepticism. It's a car that's made of complicated chemicals and packed with an army of batteries. Neither are easy to produce or recycle. On top of that, when it comes to the "zero emission" charging, I'm looking at power plants burning coal or gas.
The i3's "greenness," however, goes far beyond just gas mileage and CO2 emissions.
They even got a Gültigkeitserklärung in a golden frame from a bunch of scientists, engineers and other experts proving that the i3 is indeed as green as we all want it to be.
Its carbon footprint is 30 to 50 percent smaller during its full life cycle than similar sized normal cars. Here's why:
- The carbon emissions produced by the extraction of raw materials and manufacture were reduced by recycling and the energy efficient production process.
- A greenhouse potential is reduced by around 30 percent already by using energy from the EU 25 electricity mix, which takes account of all electricity generation in the European Union.
- This can be improved to more than 50 percent compared with conventional automobiles as soon as the BMW i3 is powered exclusively by energy generated from renewables, for example, wind or solar power. This sounds far fetched, but Germany is likely to meet its target of generating 35 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020.
- Leather tanned with olive-leaf extract, environmentally refined wood from certified cultivation in Europe and the tangible use of natural fibers in the instrument panel and the door panels help sustainability.
- 25 percent by weight of each of the plastics used in the interior and the thermoplastics in the exterior have been derived from recycled material or renewable raw materials.
- Most of the lightweight alloy components of the BMW i3 are made up of so-called secondary aluminum. This is not obtained from aluminum ore but from melted production scrap and can be produced using up to 95 percent less energy.
- Primary aluminum also makes a contribution since it is produced using energy generated from renewable resources.
- Around ten percent of the CFRP used in the passenger cell is made of recycled materials. For example, offcuts from the manufacture of CFRP components can be returned to the production stages in a process specially developed for BMW i.
- Finally, the carbon-fibre plant located at Moses Lake (USA) which produces the raw material for all the components manufactured from CFRP in the BMW i3 uses 100 percent of the energy from locally generated hydropower, while the electricity at the Leipzig production plant also comes exclusively from renewable energy sources.
These production methods are common when it comes to one-off prototypes and show cars, but the i3 is a production vehicle. It starts at €34,950 ($46,997) in Germany. It's a few quids more in the UK, but only before tax reductions.
This is happening right now, and it's fantastic.