One element of automotive design that most folks fail to appreciate is the lead times required to build a new vehicle. It's not uncommon for car makers to start developing the next generation of a model immediately after they launch an all-new car.
With something as radically new as carbon fiber structural components, the lead times can take closer to a decade. The Lexus LFA, which uses a significant amount of carbon fiber, took nine years to develop. BMW will be releasing their MegaCity electric car, which will feature an entirely carbon fiber structure, is set to be launched in 2013, but a decade before that, BMW engineers were preparing for it, in the form of an X5 with a carbon fiber unibody.
The X5, which was fitted with the biggest V8 engine available, has its entire body made out of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). Only the doors are made out of steel, and one can see the weave pattern when the door frames and structural pillars are examined. BMW claims they put 25,000 miles on the car, and that the new material saved roughly 440 pounds.
More: BMW's Carbon Fiber X5 Prototype Sheds 440 Pounds