Where does a circle begin?
If there is one topic that concerns us all, that unites us all, it’s the need of a drastic reduction of CO2 emissions. But that’s not the only topic we have to solve.
Humanity needs raw materials. Alone in 2020, more than 100 billion tons of raw materials were mined across the world. However, nearly all forms of raw material extraction have an impact on the environment. The dilemma is that we need these materials, and not just to build cars, but many of them are finite. That’s why we need to radically rethink our economy – from the linear “take, make, waste” of the last 200 years to a truly circular economy, where nothing goes to waste. Circularity will allow us to re-use and recycle raw materials more than ever before and become much less dependent on primary materials. Similarly, circularity also entails using green energy to work with the secondary materials we use instead. As a whole, this is a way forward reduce emissions wherever we can, and ensure we protect the environment to our best ability.
It’s a massive task, so where do we begin? Right here, right now. At the moment, our cars are 95 per cent recyclable and our high-voltage batteries are more than 90 per cent recyclable. That’s impressive, but we aim higher still. What about manufacturing? Here, nearly 30 per cent of our cars are made up of secondary materials – raw materials that are having a second, or even third lease of life. That’s a good start, but we’re already working to push this figure to 50 per cent. “Secondary first” is our approach – we’ll only use newly extracted raw materials if there’s no other way.
So what could circular design look and feel like in real life? Our IAA vision car, the BMW i Vision Circular, gives you a first glimpse. It’s made almost entirely from recycled materials and is itself close to 100% recyclable. It embodies our ambition to become the most sustainable car company in the world. And it’s living proof of our design and engineering approach RE:THINK, RE:DUCE, RE: USE, RE:CYCLE – and repeat.
If you want to learn more in a playful and interactive way, check out our RE:BMW Circular Lab. It’s an online space where you can try your hand at a bit of circular design yourself. You’ll see that the challenges are complex and never straightforward. And you’ll also experience how creativity can resolve seeming contradictions.
Our designers had their own Circular Lab, the BMW Design Studios, and the BMW i Vision Circular is our prototype. Its design language signposts the circular approach, with a bold, reduced aesthetic and a host of visual cues. These cues – like plastics that tell a story and the eye-catching quick-release fasteners – reveal the past lives of its materials as well as the future destination of its components. And some iconic details, such as the crystal reading lamps in the rear, are actually re-used iDrive controllers from today’s brand-new BMW i4 and BMW iX.
The circular economy isn’t an optional extra. We have to achieve it and throw ourselves into this challenge. We want to lead by example and show the world that it’s possible. And we also want to show that we won’t have to compromise on the experience our customers expect. Sheer driving pleasure is what BMW stands for, now and in the future.
So, where does a circle begin? The logical answer, of course, is nowhere and everywhere. To achieve what we have set out to achieve, we choose the latter.