The BMW i Vision Circular.

Munich. With the BMW i Vision Circular, the BMW Group
is looking ahead to a compact BMW for the year 2040 that is focused
squarely on sustainability and luxury. The four-seater is fully
electrically powered and offers a generous amount of interior space
within its around four-metre-long footprint. It has furthermore been
designed according to circular economy principles across the board and
therefore symbolises the BMW Group’s ambitious plan to become the
world’s most sustainable manufacturer in the individual premium
mobility space.

The Vision Vehicle is one of five different concept vehicles with
which the BMW Group is presenting how it envisages individual urban
mobility at the IAA Mobility 2021 event. Under a single umbrella
spanning electric mobility, digitalisation and sustainability, the
five pioneering concepts create a versatile mobility mix on two and
four wheels fuelled by sustainable thinking, which comprehensively
addresses an extremely wide range of mobility needs in the face of
fast-changing requirements and growing challenges.

Circular economy and secondary materials cut CO2
The BMW Group’s overriding aim as it strives
to achieve climate neutrality is to reduce CO2 emissions throughout a
vehicle’s entire life cycle. Besides electrifying the product
portfolio and switching to renewable energy for manufacturing, the
company is focusing particularly on circular economy principles and
the use of secondary materials. These materials, such as secondary
aluminium and secondary steel, can be obtained by recycling waste
material and then reused. The process for supplying secondary
materials is far less harmful to the environment and carbon intensive
compared to the extraction and manufacture of primary material. This
can bring about a major improvement in a vehicle’s carbon footprint,
especially on the supply chain side. At present, vehicles from the BMW
Group are manufactured using nearly 30 per cent recycled and reused
material on average. The ‘secondary first’ approach is intended to
gradually increase this figure to 50 per cent.

“The BMW i Vision Circular illustrates our all-encompassing,
meticulous way of thinking when it comes to sustainable mobility. It
symbolises our ambition to be a pioneering force in the development of
a circular economy,” explains Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of
Management of BMW AG. “We lead the way for resource efficiency in
production and we are seeking to extend this status to all stages of
the vehicle life cycle. This is a question of economic sustainability
too, as the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the
financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on
finite resources.” He adds, “We will take the next big step towards
achieving this with the ‘Neue Klasse’ models. We appreciate there are
many BMW fans longing for a first foretaste of the ‘Neue Klasse’, but
the BMW i Vision Circular isn’t it. I can promise, however, that, on a
sustainability level, the ‘Neue Klasse’ is being developed with the
same mindset applied for the BMW i Vision Circular.”

The overriding design aim for the BMW i Vision Circular was to create
a vehicle that is optimised for closed materials cycles and achieves
100% use of recycled materials / 100% recyclability. This involves
making particular use of materials that have already completed a
product life cycle – or secondary materials as they are known –
alongside certified bio-based raw materials. The same applies to the
energy storage device: the all-solid-state battery in the BMW i Vision
Circular is 100 per cent recyclable and manufactured almost entirely
using materials sourced from the recycling loop. It will achieve much
higher energy density with significantly reduced use of the most
valuable resources.

Circular design – a new approach.

“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’,” explains Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW
Group Design. Circular design embraces the four principles of

RE:THINK. Circular product design begins by thinking
about things differently. For the BMW i Vision Circular this meant
scrutinising processes and manufacturing technologies and thinking
differently. The function performed by each component part up to now
was examined, after which the part was removed without replacement or
cleverly repackaged where appropriate and then designed to enable
closed materials cycles.

RE:DUCE. “I do more with less” has long been an
integral part of the BMW i philosophy. The BMW i Vision Circular
demonstrates this through the rigorously applied reduction in the
number of component parts, material groups and surface finishes,
dispensing completely with exterior paintwork, leather and chrome, for
instance. Materials from bio-based raw materials also help to minimise
environmental impact and contribute to a smaller carbon footprint. As
far as the digitalisation features are concerned, smart control panels
reduce both complexity and the use of materials. In addition to this,
digital surface treatments enable a reduction in the number of
hardware variants at the same time as opening up whole new
possibilities for design.

RE:USE. Ideally, a sustainable product will have a
long lifespan, with a rich and enjoyable product experience making
people a lot more enthusiastic about using the product – and using it
for longer. One way of ensuring this happens is by incorporating
digitality to create new experiences. The display options via digital
display surfaces in the exterior and interior of a car and the
availability of “option as a service” allow users to constantly bring
something new to the vehicle. Constant updates over the air and cloud
computing keep the product technically up to date for longer. And the
vehicle’s life cycle can also be extended by refurbishing and
re-design. Easily detachable connections make it far simpler for users
to replace individual materials and component parts, allowing them to
keep restyling the vehicle.

RE:CYCLE. When it comes to the materials used, the
focus with the BMW i Vision Circular is on recycled materials
(“secondary first” approach) which are intended to be reused again at
the end of the product life cycle. Having a small number of different
mono-material groups with connections that can easily be undone is
crucial for good recycling. For this reason, the BMW i Vision Circular
avoids bonded connections or composite materials and uses intelligent
types of connection, such as cords, press studs and quick-release
fasteners, instead. It showcases a purpose-developed, aesthetically
appealing quick-release fastener for the wheels, seats and instrument
panel that creates a ‘joyful fusion’. The laser-etched graphic in the
centre of the quick-release fastener is made up of the letters of the
word “circular” arranged in the form of a circle. A special socket
wrench separates the component parts joined by the fastener with a
single rotation. The ‘joyful fusion’ fastener creates a theft-proof
and stable connection and, at the same time, allows many component
parts of the vehicle to be dismantled with just a single tool.

“BMW has always known how to resolve apparent contradictions in its
products,” explains Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design. “With the BMW i
Vision Circular, we have set ourselves the challenge of designing a
100% circular vehicle, while at the same time meeting – and in some
respects exceeding – our customers’ self-evident expectations when it
comes to lifestyle and luxury.”

Re-interpreting classical icons – the front
The puristic front end clearly conveys the
aesthetic power of circular design. In keeping with the principles of
“RE:THINK” and “RE:USE”, the number of parts here has been reduced to
the max. Instead of having a chrome surround with bars, the kidney
grille has been newly interpreted as a digital surface. The kidney
surfaces extend across the entire width of the front end, merging the
headlights and grille into an unmistakable “double-icon” that will
continue to be a clear BMW identifier. At the same time, the kidney
surfaces are turned into a graphic interface. In the future, digital
design could make geometric variations in lights and bumpers
redundant, helping to reduce the quantity of materials and tools required.

A discreet line graphic on the kidney surfaces constitutes the sole
decorative element in the front end. Using a process of intelligent
surface refinement, it brings a new and artistic twist to the familiar
parallel kidney bar look. This line graphic forms a recurring theme
that is also found in the windows, the rear end, the roof, wheels and
floor coverings. The BMW i Vision Circular has no other additive trim
elements or badging of the sort currently used to signify quality. The
brand logo on the front end is engraved and the vehicle badge is
laser-etched to avoid using extra add-on parts.

The surfaces below the windscreen are made from secondary aluminium.
An additional sensor cluster between the two kidney elements groups
together technological features, enabling simple disassembly within a
single removable element. The bumper area further down is manufactured
from recycled plastic with a sophisticated marbled surface.

A new silhouette for BMW – the side view.
circular design approach exudes puristic clarity when viewing the car
in profile too. The BMW i Vision Circular has a clear mono-volume
design made up of just a small number of parts, with the array of
different materials used reduced to a minimum. The design language
here is clear and accessible. The proportions, meanwhile, take BMW in
a new direction. The vehicle extends in an unbroken volume from the
front to rear axle, offering a generous breadth of interior usability
within a small footprint. Even at a standstill, the rising roofline
and a cowl panel pushed well forward give the compact silhouette the
appearance of surging dynamically down the road. The wheels form
almost the outer limits of the vehicle, combining with the prominently
flared wheel arches to produce a hunkered-down, sporty stance.
Together with its electrified architecture, the Vision Vehicle offers
a luxury-class interior on a small car footprint.

The large-surfaced, flush-glazed passenger compartment lends a sense
of modernity and lightness to the flanks. Instead of using a chrome
trim strip as a surround for the window graphic, there is a slim
digital surface extending like a ribbon around the Hofmeister kink.
This is not only a stylistic element, but also a display and
control/operation surface. It can be used to show information about
the vehicle status and guide users to the door opener using light as
they approach the car. When the door opener is touched, the two portal
doors open in opposite directions, making it easy for the driver and
passengers to climb aboard and opening up the generously sized interior.

Refined surfaces rather than paintwork.

The BMW i Vision Circular deliberately avoids the use of paint
for the exterior, and instead features a main body made from secondary
aluminium with a light-gold anodised finish. The calmer feel of this
Anodized Mystic Bronze shade contrasts with the more “animated” and
richly coloured surface at the rear made from heat-treated steel. The
heat treatment process creates the colour Temper Blue Steel, an
alluring interplay of bluish purple surfaces whose cloud-like aspect
would lend a highly individual touch to any vehicle. The refinement
processes employed for the individual surfaces give them significant
visual impact, while preserving the raw materiality of the two metals
for optimal reusability. This shows how it will be possible to refine
surfaces using innovative processes in future without the need for
paint finishes.

Innovative details in the wheel area.
The tyres
in “Vivid Blue Rubber” are made from certified, sustainably cultivated
natural rubber and have a slightly transparent appearance. Extra
coloured, recycled rubber particles are added to the tyre compound for
strengthening, creating an intriguing terrazzo effect and purposefully
highlighting the reuse of materials. The wheel rims are designed and
manufactured with minimal materials use. Rim centres with maximum
permeability provide brake cooling, while the more enclosed surfaces
to the outer reaches of the wheels ensure the greatest possible
aerodynamic efficiency. The wheels are fixed in place using the
“joyful fusion” quick-release fastener that adorns the centre of the
wheel, forming a sophisticated visual highlight. Only visible when
looking from above, a narrow fin is integrated centrally in the rear
section of the glass roof. It contains the communications and antenna
technology, and provides information on the status of the vehicle
(open/closed, charge level of the battery, etc.). It also integrates
the high-mounted centre brake light.

Monolithic and modern – the rear end.
The rear
end also has a puristic, clear appearance. All the display surfaces
and light functions are integrated invisibly into the dark glass
tailgate, replicating the approach taken at the front end. When the
car is switched off, only the two-dimensional BMW logo in the dark
glass surface is visible. Switching the car on activates both the
functional light elements and the line graphic at the front end. Below
the tailgate, a clearly sculpted surface made from secondary steel
creates a striking horizontal movement. A slight uptick here injects
the rear end with dynamic flair and provides a high-class border.
Moving further down, the perfectly minimalised and aerodynamically
optimised black bumper – likewise made from visibly recycled plastic –
rounds off the rear-end design at its point lowest to the road.

Visibly sustainable luxury – the interior
Inside, the BMW i Vision Circular seeks to
create a luxurious ambience, employing materials and production
processes that are indicative of a responsible approach to the
environment and its resources. The interior of the BMW i Vision
Circular thereby highlights what will be possible in the future when
it comes to circularity and purposeful selection of materials – and
the kind of intriguing aesthetics that might emerge as a result. This
involves using not just the right basic materials in the form of
mono-materials but also clever new joining techniques for them which
avoid the use of glue in order to ensure optimum suitability for
dismantling and sorting at a later stage. In order to minimise the
amount of waste and offcuts, all components and materials will be
manufactured to fit exactly using processes such as 3D printing. Any
surplus material will be systematically fed back into the materials cycle.

The interior – modern, light and supremely sustainable.

The two outer-hinged portal doors swing wide open to
reveal a light and airy interior. The basic colour scheme for the
cabin is composed of taupe with elements of grey and the light mint
green shade (“MONOchrome Mint”) used for the floor and side trim
panels. This coordinates perfectly with the taupe/violet “MONOchrome
Taupe” finish for the front and rear seats to create a modern and
homely atmosphere. Gold-bronze metal accents in the same Anodized
Mystic Bronze shade used for the exterior add a warm and sophisticated contrast.

The interior greets the driver and front passenger with a high degree
of transparency and an open sense of space. The glass roof with
pronounced rearward placement of the windscreen header gives those in
the front the impression they are sitting in the open air while also
maximising the feeling of spaciousness experienced within a small
footprint. The four seats have been intentionally designed to look
more look like pieces of furniture. In the front, two separate lounge
seats with integral head restraints create an exclusive ambience.
Their velvet-like upholstery is made from recycled plastic and is held
within a light-gold aluminium frame. The seats rest on a slender
mono-post base with fore/aft adjustment. Together with the
accompanying omission of a centre console, this design has the effect
of creating vast amounts of legroom for passengers in the second row.
The back of the slim front seat shells is made of recycled plastics
with a terrazzo-look finish. Another circular ‘joyful fusion’
quick-release fastener for simple dismantling can be found here,
allowing the metal and fabric to be easily separated and sorted, and
then reused.

Re-interpreted instrument panel.
The global
user experience in the BMW i Vision Circular, like its material
qualities, deliberately showcases a more distant future with greater
in-car intelligence and more sensors that react to the user. Reducing
the number of components while also grouping functions together
creates a ‘phygital experience’. This newly coined term refers to
turning digitality into a haptic experience. Depending on the use
case, this involves either implementing the underlying technology in a
highly integrated, virtually invisible manner as an extension of the
‘shy tech’ approach or – as demonstrated by the instrument panel –
deliberately showcasing it and bringing it to life as an artistic icon.

The classical instrument panel is turned into a next-generation
phygital user interface. Here, it takes the form of a hovering,
V-shaped sculpture that projects out into the cabin. At its heart is a
3D-printed, crystal body with nerve-like structures running through
it, great visual depth and an enthralling lighting effect. This is
where the vehicle’s “thinking” is visualised, allowing the user to see
its intelligence at work. The instrument panel also serves as an area
for interaction though, giving form to the fundamental idea of
creating experiences that extend far beyond displays and buttons. The
crystal body is bordered on both sides by naturally treated wood that
has been responsibly sourced and externally certified, as is the case
with all bio-based raw materials. Gold-bronze elements made from
anodised secondary aluminium connect the instrument panel to the
A-pillars. The metallic side sections once again feature the ‘joyful
fusion’ quick-release fasteners for straightforward dismantling.

Displays reimagined.
The information area you
would normally expect to find in a central information display is
located above the instrument panel at the bottom of the windscreen.
This display area takes the Head-Up Display as first brought out by
BMW to a whole new level. All relevant information is projected onto
the bottom area of the windscreen across its entire width. Driving
displays for the driver can be found here together with communications
functions and entertainment features for the passengers. Information
can be moved directly into the user’s field of vision or hidden, as
desired. Intelligent use of technologies therefore transforms the
existing windscreen into an information source, eliminating the need
for any other displays in the interior at the same time, and is
another example application of shy tech at work. The projected content
is controlled by means of interaction pads in the steering wheel,
while passengers can easily connect their mobile devices to the
vehicle and then call up individual content in the windscreen’s front
passenger section or activate the personal speakers for a seamless
infotainment offering. From the outside, a graduated black printed
surface with a gold-bronze pattern gives added effect to the display
area of the windscreen.

3D-printed steering wheel.
The steering wheel
forms a link between past and future at the same time as reducing the
quantity of material and components. The rim has been 3D-printed from
bio-based material, with the wood powder variant shown here giving the
steering wheel a natural and warm feel. The unconventional, central
positioning of the vertical spoke in gold-bronze adds a modern twist.
It incorporates another crystal interface area featuring backlighting
and displays similar to those of the instrument panel. To the left and
right of the steering wheel’s centre, in the vicinity of the driver’s
thumbs, are pads that are activated by the thumbs moving towards or
touching them and operated by thumb movements (similar to today’s
multifunction steering wheels). These pads are phygital touchpoints
that reinforce the principle of “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road”
and control the content shown in the windscreen’s information area.

Display surface connects the exterior with the
The display and operating surface below the
windows visible on the outside of the car can be found on the inside
too, forming a connecting element between interior and exterior. Here
again, it extends back into the rear of the car and around the
Hofmeister kink. Featuring the same crystal appearance as the
instrument panel and ambient lighting, this element in the sidewall
adds to the intriguing and mystical aura produced in the cabin. It
additionally incorporates a number of functions, including the power
window switches, door openers and the controls for the sunshade in the
roof. This means it forms the only electronic component in the doors,
and it can be simply removed as a module when dismantling the vehicle
and then separated and sorted.

Inviting rear compartment.
The pronounced
rearward placement of the windscreen header provides passengers in the
rear with a separate glass roof featuring a mechanical shading
function. This function comprises two glass panels with a pattern of
parallel lines that can be pushed together to vary the degree of
shading between 50% and 100%. The use of two panels for the shading
function results in a very slim design that does not add to the
height. Here, intelligent graphic design has led to an innovation
which does not require any additional technology or electronics yet
still achieves the maximum effect.

In addition to this, the rear of the cabin has been shaped into a
large, slightly raised bench seat, which offers an inviting space for
two with its amply proportioned, softly padded side bolsters. The head
restraints look like cushions placed on a supporting structure,
further emphasising the soft, cosy character. The audio speakers are
located beneath the head restraint cushions. Each seat has its own
dedicated sound zone, meaning that individual audio content can be
enjoyed anywhere in the vehicle without acoustic interference. Direct
sound control reduces the number of parts required and simplifies
removal of the system. This is just one example of the possible ways
in which modern technical features can be subtly integrated into an
interior setting that has the appearance of a comfortable apartment.

Sophisticated details in the rear.
The fabric
upholstery for the seats in MONOchrome Taupe is made entirely from
recycled material, but has been woven here into an elaborate Jacquard
design. The lavish upholstery is further enhanced by precise quilting
and is held in place by press studs for easier dismantling, as on the
front seats. The rear bench seat is bordered by an anodised aluminium
frame in gold-bronze. The method for joining the seat upholstery to
the frame is another noteworthy detail here, as the fabric is
interwoven with the frame by means of a cord. The connection can be
undone again manually when it is time to dismantle the seat. The
deep-pile carpet in MONOchrome Mint creates a pleasant atmosphere
throughout the vehicle. It has the characteristic pattern of lines
familiar from the exterior printed into it and is manufactured from
100 per cent recycled plastic. In the C-pillar, a glass iDrive
Controller from a BMW iX enjoys a second life with a new function as a
lamp – a very smart touch that illustrates the principle of “RE:USE”.

The sound design of the BMW i Vision
The composer Hans Zimmer and Renzo Vitale,
Creative Director Sound BMW Group, came up with an exclusive sound
design for the BMW i Vision Circular that makes its circularity
audible. “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,” explains Hans 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.” Taking the materials used in the
vehicle as a starting point, the duo also experimented with samples
and loops of sound elements, enabling them to discover a spectrum of
sounds produced by the materials in the car. Each and every tone
featured here captures the movements of the exterior structures, the
interior areas, the materials, the lights and the visual animations.

Vehicle-to-grid opens up new possible uses.

Alongside all its material and design innovations, the BMW i
Vision Circular also offers the possibility of usage in a
bidirectional charging scenario. Here, the vehicle would act as a
mobile energy storage device and feed power to its surroundings, e.g.
buildings and infrastructure. It can even be fed back into the power
grid to help absorb peaks in demand.

Data-based smart mobility
for maximum efficiency in urban traffic.
key measure in the drive towards sustainable urban mobility extends
beyond the actual vehicle: making intelligent use of the available
real-time and long-term traffic data for maximum mobility efficiency.
To date, the BMW Group has manufactured far in excess of 14 million
connected vehicles that are now on the world’s roads. What’s more, the
degree of connectivity and the precision of the sensor technology used
are constantly improving. The information gathered by each vehicle
isn’t just used to support its own functions though. With the user’s
consent, it is shared with the entire connected fleet, allowing all
vehicles to benefit from this swarm intelligence. Speed
recommendations could be optimised to make better use of traffic light
phases (“green wave”), traffic flows forecasted more accurately and
periods of congestion minimised as a result of vehicles communicating
with each other and their environment. CO2 emissions caused
by stop-start traffic or even searching for a parking spot could be
reduced significantly across a large number of users.

Further insights with the BMW i Insight Vision
The BMW i Insight Vision App offers a novel new way
of experiencing and exploring the BMW i Vision Circular interactively.
The app uses a wealth of different examples to visualise the four
basic principles of circular economy – RE:THINK, RE:DUCE, RE:USE and
RE:CYCLE. All aspects of the Vision Vehicle can be discovered in an
entertaining way with the help of augmented reality. Additional
information, background details and facts have been added to enrich
the user experience and offer a wide variety of insights into both the
design process and the materials and technologies used. The app’s
design has been modelled on the My BMW App. The BMW i Insight Vision
App experience is available exclusively on the show stand.


The BMW Group is staging a RE:BMW Circular Lab as part of the
IAA event to provide further information on the topic of circular
economy. The BMW Group intends to win the public over to the circular
economy approach with this hybrid experience and communications
platform. Under the umbrella of the four fundamental principles of
circular design the RE:BMW Circular Lab invites visitors to the IAA to
gain a first-hand experience of what circular economy and circular
design mean during workshops. “Circular Heroes”, as they have been
named, will offer their users an easy, fun and artistic way of
familiarising themselves with the principles of circular design that
is also factually correct.