Standing next to the BMW i3, we’re often struck by its size. Diminutive by nature, the i3 nonetheless represents big ideals for a greener world. Those ideals are still apparent in the design language, the silent driving experience, and the bright-eyed philosophy that sales associates like those at Leith BMW in Raleigh bring to the pitch.
What is easier to forget is the immense scale at which these cars are being produced and the mechanisms in place to get them from base components to the road. Luckily, TestDriven has published a series of videos that show in near-exhaustive detail how the i3 is produced. The series starts with the weaving of carbon fiber and ends with technicians tightening the wheels.
Fans of the Science Channel’s How It’s Made will feel at home watching, and there is a fascinating quality to watching component after component stacked, moved, welded, sprayed, heated, drilled, glued, and fit together. There are a number of technicians shown quality checking each piece at each step, but the real stars are the hundreds of robotic arms courtesy of Swiss robotics giant ABB. They manipulate and put together each piece of the i3 with the kind of efficiency and precision that has made them a mainstay on every manufacturing line the world over.
Though Part 1 begins with a man explaining the various steps of carbon fiber manufacturing, don’t expect the narration to continue after that. We actually had a lot of fun trying to guess what piece of the puzzle was being put together on screen. Some parts are more obvious, like the battery pack and the electric motor, but others not so much. You probably won’t recognize the dashboard until it’s fitted into place. There is also no music playing over, and the constant whirring of machinery gives you a sense of what it’s like to be in the factory.
We’ve linked all four parts of the series below, so if you have about eighty minutes to kill, or even if you just want to have these on while you’re doing something else, we recommend it. It’s always worth seeing how the parts come together to make a whole.