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BMW i Vision Circular concept is an electric city car that’s totally recyclable

The concept’s grille is actually a large digital surface.


BMW wants to be the world’s most sustainable premium automaker, and the company will be talking up a lot of its future efforts at this week’s Munich Auto Show. To show what this future sustainability means in terms of actual vehicles, BMW revealed the i Vision Circular concept on Monday, a little urban runabout that is not only made from reusable materials, but is also 100% recyclable itself.

The all-solid-state battery powering the concept “is 100% recyclable and manufactured almost entirely using materials sourced from the recycling loop,” BMW said in a statement. The rest of the car? It doesn’t use paint, leather, chrome or any of the other things normally associated with new cars. Beyond that, BMW says the Vision Circular “avoids bonded connections or composite materials and uses intelligent types of connection, such as cords, press studs and quick-release fasteners.” This means a lot of the car’s parts are easily detachable and replaceable, and BMW says many of the vehicle’s components have quick-release fasteners or can be “dismantled with just a single tool.” We aren’t really sure how that’ll jibe with things like federal crash safety standards, but BMW says the Vision Circular concept is imagined for the year 2040, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

The bluish purple rear end comes from the heat treatment process used on the metal.


As for the concept car itself, it’s a big step forward in terms of design. BMW’s iconic (and lately enlarged) front kidneys are reimagined as digital surfaces that can display different light patterns. BMW’s logo is actually engraved onto the front of the Vision Concept and the car’s name is laser-etched into the body. The concept is made largely of gold anodized recycled aluminum and the bluish purple color at the rear is “created by the heat treatment process used for the steel,” BMW says. The tires? They’re actually slightly transparent and made from “sustainably cultivated” natural rubber. Colored rubber particles are added to the tire compound to not only make them stronger, but also make them look cooler.

Overall, BMW says the Vision Circular concept is about 13 feet long but has a “generous” amount of interior space. The cabin materials are largely 3D printed and “any surplus material will be systematically fed back into the materials cycle.” The huge windshield slopes up into a glass roof and the seat upholstery is made from recycled plastic. Look closely and you’ll notice what BMW calls the “joyful fusion” quick-release fastener on the seat backs.

Now, here’s where things get really wild. Instead of a traditional instrument cluster, the Vision Circular has a 3D-printed crystal user interface that “reacts to hand movements with an enthralling lighting effect.” BMW says the vehicle information you’d normally find in an instrument cluster is projected onto the windshield, eliminating the need for screens inside the car. It’s crazy. The steering wheel’s a particularly interesting bit of design, too.

OK, this is wild.


The rear seats look super plush and have audio speakers integrated into the headrests. The back bench is surrounded by an anodized aluminum frame, and everything is “held in place by a cord, which can be released again easily when it is time to dismantle the seat,” BMW says. On the C-pillars, the crystal iDrive infotainment controller BMW uses in the iX crossover is repurposed as a lamp. And of course, the deep-pile carpets throughout the cabin are made from 100% recycled plastic.

Composer Hans Zimmer created a unique vehicle soundtrack for the Vision Circular, which “captures the movements of the exterior structures, the interior areas, the materials the lights and the visual animations,” BMW says. Kind of sounds like this thing is going to be a rolling synth-pop concert.

Interestingly, BMW makes no mention about powertrain details, only that the Vision Circular is electric. The company doesn’t say anything about autonomous driving capabilities, either, though given the use of a steering wheel, it seems this little city car is meant to be driven. To that end, BMW says the Vision Circular has full car-to-grid communication capabilities, with real-time traffic data built in.

What’s it all mean for the future? Your guess is as good as ours. While it’s unlikely a car exactly like the Vision Circular will ever come to production, we like how BMW is thinking about recyclability and long-term sustainability with its future endeavors. 

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