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BMW's carport hints at a solar-powered future

Posting in Energy

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 BMW

BMW unveiled a solar carport concept designed to house--and charge--its series of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The carport debut is part of a larger media launch in Los Angeles for BMW's i8 plug-in hybrid sports car made out of carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

The carport, which is made out of bamboo struts, carbon fiber and glass-on-glass solar panels, captures energy and converts it to electricity. The carport is outfitted with a BMW Wallbox, an in-home charging box that delivers the electricity (whether its from the grid or the solar carport) into the car's high-voltage battery. The Wallbox will display how much solar energy has been used to fuel up the car and can provide an analysis on solar charging versus electricity from the power grid.

The solar carport concept was developed by BMW Group DesignWorks USA, a California-based subsidiary of the automaker that runs a network of design studios in Europe, Asia and U.S. The automaker didn't disclose if the carport will be produced for purchase.

BMW will begin selling the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car next month. The new car is part of the automaker's broader effort to design a fleet of lighter and powerful electric vehicles. The i8 will join BMW's i3 low-cost electric compact.

Last week, BMW announced plans to investment $200 million to expand its carbon fiber plant in Washington. The factory, the product of a joint venture between the automaker and German carbon materials manufacturer SGL, already makes carbon-fiber threads used to form the carbon composite shell of BMW's i-series cars.

The expansion will triple the capacity and make it the world's largest carbon fiber plant. BMW expects the expansion to be completed by early 2015.

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— By on May 13, 2014, 11:20 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure