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BMW and SGL to triple production capacity at Moses Lake carbon fiber plant with $200M expansion; world’s largest carbon fiber plant

A production line for carbon fiber takes the PAN precursor through two stages (stabilization/oxidation and carbonization) and then to winding. Source: SGLACF. Click to enlarge.

Due to the high demand for carbon fiber in automotive production, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW Group and the SGL Group, will triple the capacity of the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, Washington. SGL and BMW made the announcement at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned site expansion. The expansion will be funded by an investment of US$200 million, on top of the previously invested US$100 million.

The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by early 2015, will make the plant in Moses Lake the world’s largest carbon fiber plant. At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with an annual output of approx. 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. The expansion of the site in Moses Lake will make it possible for the BMW Group to apply carbon fiber material also in other model series in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities.

This summer, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will commission a third and fourth production line in Moses Lake, which are currently being built, thus doubling the plant’s capacity to 6,000 tons per year. The groundbreaking ceremony for a fifth and sixth production line has been the first step toward tripling capacities to 9,000 tons annually in the medium term. The energy needed for the carbon fiber production is fully generated from hydropower.

The carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake is a key element in the strategy pursued by the two companies, which anticipates the industrialized large-series production of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) for the application in future vehicle concepts.

The production of carbon fiber composites for automotive manufacturing requires several process steps:

  • The necessary precursor, which is based on polyacrylnitrile fiber, is made by a joint venture between SGL Group and the Japanese company Mitsubishi Rayon in Otake, Japan.

  • Next, polyacrylnitrile fiber is turned into the actual carbon fiber in Moses Lake. Carbon fibers are industrially manufactured fibers consisting of 95% carbon; one ACF carbon fiber bundle (roving) contains 50,000 individual fibers (filaments).

    The fiber production process has two main steps: stabilization/oxidation and carbonization. During the stabilization/oxidation process at Moses Lake, the endless PAN precursors are drawn through four furnaces. Thermal stabilization takes place by adding oxygen at temperatures between 200-260 ˚C. This converts the meltable and flammable PAN fibers into non-meltable and non-flammable fibers.

    During the carbonization process, the oxidized fibers are converted into fibers with carbon layers by in a heat treatment process of up to 1,400 ˚C. The end product consists of high-strength, black carbon fibers, consisting 95 % of carbon.

    Carbon fiber production. Click to enlarge.
  • This material is then processed at the second joint venture site in Wackersdorf, Germany, and turned into textile carbon fiber layers, the starting point for the production of CFRP body parts at the BMW plants in Landshut and Leipzig. Wackersdorf is also where the recycling processes are implemented, resulting in a non-woven complex.

    This recycled non-woven fabric is a new innovation that did not previously exist in this form and now it can be converted back into vehicles including the roof and rear seat. This enables a self-contained production cycle.

The production of carbon fiber requires a great amount of energy. Accordingly, decisive factors for the set up of the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake included the availability of renewable hydropower as well as competitive energy costs in Washington State.

With its highly automated carbon fiber production and stringent quality standards, Moses Lake is setting new standards in the industry. At present, the site is the world’s fastest growing carbon fiber producer. Together with the BMW Group, we are doing pioneering work to establish CFRP as a material in large-series automotive production. In a mix of materials, CFRP offers new opportunities in lightweight construction for an eco-friendly mobility.

—Dr. Jürgen Köhler, CEO of SGL Group

Since the start of the year, the Leipzig plant has built over 5,000 BMW i3 vehicles. At present, the production output stands at 100 units a day. Furthermore, the BMW Group has been applying the ultra-lightweight high-tech material also in its BMW M models for the past ten years.

In the BMW i models, CFRP already holds a significant share in the mix of materials, a first at this scope and in series production.

CFRP is a key material for the automotive industry of the 21st century. In our endeavor to identify increasingly lightweight materials in order to reduce a vehicle’s weight and thus its fuel consumption and carbon emissions, this material plays a crucial role. As part of an intelligent mix of materials, we will apply carbon also beyond our BMW i and BMW M models in the future. Thanks to the pooling of the SGL Group’s expertise and our knowledge in large-series production of CFRP components, we will be able to produce the ultra-lightweight high-tech material also for other model series, at competitive costs and in large quantities.

—Dr. Klaus Draeger, Board Member Purchasing and Supplier Network at BMW AG

SGL Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of carbon-based products and materials. It has a comprehensive portfolio ranging from carbon and graphite products to carbon fibers and composites. Products from SGL Group are used predominantly in the steel, aluminum, automotive and chemical industries as well as in the semiconductor, solar and LED sectors and in lithium-ion batteries. Carbon-based materials and products are also being used increasingly in the wind power, aerospace and defense industries.

With 44 production sites in Europe, North America and Asia as well as a service network covering more than 100 countries, SGL Group is a company with a global presence. In 2013, the Company’s workforce of around 6,300 employees generated sales of €1,477 million (US$2,000 million). The head office is located in Wiesbaden.



I've always say that carbon fiber is cheap, nobody believed me. Im right. I want carbon fiber in my next car purchase due in 2025 approx.


A hand to BMW & SGL. Light weight long lasting carbon fiber made with clean hydro energy for use in current and future e-vehicle is the way to go.

Coupled with aluminium-magnesium alloy and reinforced plastic parts, it could offset most of the battery pack weight for future longer lasting extended range BEVs.


This is why the i3 weighs 2,700 lbs, fully charged. The Nissan Leaf is 3,300 lbs. They do have something in common. Both are as ugly as your brother-in-law.

Henry Gibson

With a hydraulic free piston engine similar to that demonstrated by INNAS NOAX and patented for Caterpillar plus the hydraulic gas bladder system and motors developed for automobiles by ARTEMIS; diesel fuel systems can require less than half the fuel for the same or better performance for all classes of vehicles. This is sufficient to eliminate the need for high performance electric automobiles with long range. Filters and catalysts eliminate particles and combustion gases other than CO2. Whilst diesel is less CO2 intensive than gasoline to produce and use and less costly too per unit energy, methane; LPG or CNG can also be used in such an engine as well as the liquid fuel gas dimethylether,DME made from methane or other sources. DME made from any source, even coal, is perhaps the cheapest and cleanest fuel to be used for long distance travel and to reduce the need for fuel imports and complicated refining. Dakota Gasification could produce DME with slight changes and they already sequester as much as half of their CO2 with a rising demand for much more. The NOAX type free piston engine can do efficient compression ignition of methane as well as other high "octane" fuels such as propane, ethanol and methanol. Catalytic converters were instituted by law to reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons now laws can require the use of hydraulic hybrids at far lower costs with better performance than battery electric vehicles. There is a place for cheap battery electric automobiles and that is at home and in shopping mall parking lots etc. In the US the requirement for child restraint seats means that large vehicles with high fuel consumption are used. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

The people of Washington State would like the same cheap power that they had before it was sold to Californians and carbon fiber furnaces. They would like the price that it is sold to the furnaces even. Hydro-electricity is not unlimited; Very little additional will come from the Columbia river basin. ..HG..


Corvette, Pontiac and Saturn all had space frames with lighter body panels. Get the weight off, use reformed DME or methanol for fuel cells to range extend the BEV then we could really have something.



We have a 5,000+ megawatt (very low cost $0.03/kWh) surplus clean Hydro-Wind electricity for the next 15 years or so and another 50,000+ mega watts could be harnessed. Carbon fiber factories, in year round Eastern sea port areas for shipment to EU and USA, would be more than welcomed.

Future small extended range BEVs made with light weight materials should not eight more than 2,000 lbs and consume less than 50% of the energy/Km required for current heavy units.

Future 40-ft extended range (w/400+ kWh battery pack) e-city buses, built with carbon fiber, aluminium-magnesium alloys and re-enforced plastics could weight less than current steel diesel units and last 22+ years instead of 12 to 14 years.


Re the cost of hydro in Washington: There are many other ways to process aluminum and places other than WA to do it. In the 70's, WPPS, the nuclear public utility was predicated on meeting electric demand for aluminum. This was during the infancy of the Western Electric Grid and before WPPS turned into a bankrupting scam. Bondholders, who were given full guarantees on their state government backed bonds, got nothing after WA sort of didn't build two reactors out of five, and simply squandered the rest on public expenditures.

Under the circumstances, I'd say WA deserves a little competition from other localities for these kinds of business development.


"Whilst diesel is less CO2 intensive than gasoline to produce and use and less costly too per unit energy"

Not the case in EU:

IMHO, diesel should not be used in passenger cars

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