Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: BMW's New Concept Car Puts Circular Manufacturing Front and Center

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
At the front is a new take on the company's classic kidney grille. BMW of North America, LLC.

New Mercedes vehicles launched at IAA Mobility 2021 showcased what is coming in the next few years. At the same show, another German automaker, BMW, is lifting the lid on what it expects two decades from now, in 2040.

The BMW i Vision Circular is a forward-looking concept car that showcases four-seater space paired with an all-encompassing approach to sustainable vehicle design that focuses on BMW's desire to be a leader in a circular economy.

The circular economy, as BMW sees it, includes a closed loop of materials sourcing that is made up of 100 percent recycled materials, of which all of them are in turn recyclable.

Raw elements that made up body panels and chassis parts in cars that have reached the end of their life cycle could be turned into new parts for a new vehicle. This includes batteries, whose sustainability is a hot-button issue thanks to the emergence of a mass of new electric vehicles.

"We gave thorough consideration to circularity from the outset during the design process for the BMW i Vision Circular. As a result, this Vision Vehicle is packed with innovative ideas for combining sustainability with a new, inspirational aesthetic – we call this approach 'circular design'," said Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group design.

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
The blue color at the back of the model is achieved through a heating process. BMW of America, LLC.

When creating a one-off vehicle to showcase its new mission, BMW leaned heavily on its design roots in the electric autos game, reinterpreting them for futuristic life. This includes the kidney grille, which has been reinterpreted as a digital surface that extends the width of the face of the i Vision Circular.

Prominent body panel design elements of the concept are linked to trim elements that are featured on the windows, rear end, roof, wheels and floor coverings. Instead of a typical BMW badge, the company's logo is laser-etched in a bid to minimize materials use.

The odd-shaped compact model is marked by wheels pushed out to its edges courtesy of its electric powertrain. A chrome strip links the windows while a slim digital surface extends around the Hofmeister kink.

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
A sculpted body style shows minimal panel breaks. BMW of America, LLC.

BMW's designers skipped paint for the car's exterior, instead relying on a light-gold anondized finish for the secondary aluminum surface. A heat treatment creates the Temper Blue Steel color that is used to accent the model.

Vivid Blue Rubber tires make of certified, sustainably cultivated natural rubber and have a slightly transparent appearance. They are wrapped around wheels that were crafted with minimal materials use.

At the back, the car's dimensions are highlighted by the sculpted elements of the aluminum while a back bumper made from recycled plastic round off the lower portions.

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
The compact model's dimensions are accentuated by the position of the wheels. BMW of America, LLC.

The expansive passenger compartment is also possible because of the car's new-age power source. To enter, the release mechanism for two portal doors is pushed causing them to open in opposite directions.

Designers have outfitted the cabin of the concept car with taupe, gray, and light mint green upholstery and surfaces while the four seats are featured in violet. The seat shells are made of recycled plastics and feature a terrazzo-look finish while a 3D-printed steering wheel made of wood powder sits in front of the driver.

Open space abounds in the model, which rethinks the traditional cabin layout while still providing recognizable seating assignments. The thin seatbacks allow for abundant legroom.

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
The car's steering wheel has ben 3D printed. BMW of America, LLC.

Technology reigns supreme within the cabin where the information necessary to operate the vehicle is projected onto the roadway ahead, taking the traditional head-up display to a new level. Gold-bronze elements and natural wood highlight the driver's information area.

German Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer worked with Renzo Vitale, creative director sound BMW Group, to create an exclusive soundscape for the vehicle that includes speakers housed within seats.

The idea was to combine different samples to keep injecting new life into the sounds inside the vehicle, in the same way its materials get a new lease of life," said Zimmer. "The concept of objects potentially having an almost infinite lifespan inspired us to also use samples from physical instruments from a bygone age, such as a famous old cello that still works in modern times thanks to the wonders of digital circularity."

BMW I Vision Circular Concept Car
Designers have upholstered the seats in violet fabric. BMW of America, LLC.

Some elements and ideas from the i Vision Concept are expected to make their way into future BMW vehicles. The idea of a circular materials economy will play a big role in the future of BMW, according to Oliver Zipse, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.