BMW's i Vision Circular Concept Is 100% Recyclable

The idea is the vehicle can be repurposed at the end of its life.

BMW i Vision
BMW i Vision Circular Concept.


In the next decade many automakers will switch their entire lineups to fully electric vehicles, but what will happen after that? BMW is thinking further ahead to 2040 when it could introduce a fully recyclable electric car, which will be the ultimate sustainable vehicle. We still have a bit of time to get there, but the German automaker has unveiled its i Vision Circular concept, which is a recyclable electric vehicle for an urban environment, at the Munich Motor Show IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, Germany. It’s BMW’s vision of what an EV made out of recyclable materials could look like in 2040.

BMW’s goal was to create a vehicle that is not only 100% recyclable but also made from recycled materials. This includes the concept’s solid-state battery, which is made almost entirely from materials sourced from the recycling loop. Using recycled parts is not only good for the environment, but it also helps reduce production costs.

“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,” said BMW CEO Oliver Zipse. “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.”

To achieve its goal of creating a fully recyclable electric car, BMW had to rethink the way the car is built. It doesn’t use paint and it avoids bonded connections or composite materials. Instead, the concept uses “intelligent types of connection, such as cords, press studs and quick-release fasteners.” This means that many of the parts can be detached easily, which makes it easier to disassemble the i Vision Circular concept at the end of its life cycle.

Moving past its recycled materials, the i Vision Circular concept is perfect for a busy urban environment, since it only measures 157 inches long. Its design is like nothing else in BMW’s current lineup and it also features a new take on BMW’s front kidney grille with digital surfaces that display different light patterns. The exterior is largely made from gold anodized recycled aluminum. Its tires are also made from sustainably cultivated natural rubber.

Even with its small footprint, there’s plenty of interior space. The cabin is also made of 3D printed materials. Instead of a traditional instrument panel, the concept has a 3D-printed crystal interface that drivers can interact with using hand gestures. Information that you would normally get from an instrument cluster is projected onto the massive windshield, which eliminates the need for traditional screens in the cabin.

The steering wheel is also 3D-printed and it features a crystal interface, making it look nothing like the steering wheels that you see in BMW’s current models. The Monochrome Taupe plush seats are made entirely from recycled materials and can be easily dismantled. The rear bench seat is especially inviting with its comfy design and audio speakers that are integrated into the headrests.

Composer Hans Zimmer developed a unique sound design for the concept 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,” said Zimmer. “The concept of objects potentially having an almost infinite lifespan inspired us to also use samples from physical in-struments from a bygone age, such as a famous old cello that still works in modern times thanks to the wonders of digital circularity.”

While BMW provided a lot of details about the i Vision Circular concept’s design, it did not provide any details about its electric powertrain. BMW also did not make any mentions about autonomous driving capability, which is something that will be a reality by 2040. Instead, it looks like the concept is meant to be driven with its cool, futuristic steering wheel.

We’ll have to wait and see if the i Vision Circular ever enters production, but it seems unlikely. More importantly, the concept shows how BMW is thinking about long-term sustainability in its future models.