BMW i Vision Circular: Addicted to Obscene Grilles, Even on EVs

Known for performance and luxury, BMW is also known for its current obsession with giant, kidney-shaped grilles. The focus extends even to electric vehicles, although EVs don’t have a functional need for grilles. The 2040 BMW i Vision Circular EV concept car was recently featured at the 2021 Munich Auto Show. We take a look at the BMW i Vision Circular and its kidney-shaped, grille-style front.

Why do cars have grilles?

The BMW i Vision Circular on a black stage in front of a screen displaying stars in a night sky.
BMW i Vision Circular | Getty Images

On a gas-powered vehicle, the grille is more than just a design feature. The grille also has a practical function to allow air into the engine compartment. This circulating air cools off the radiator and the engine. The grille covers the air opening in the front of the car just enough to keep out debris from the road.

Electric vehicles don’t have radiators or engines, but some of them still have grilles. They’re often just part of the design, but some let in air to cool the battery, and others adjust the car’s aerodynamics.

The BMW i Vision Circular’s grille-like front

While a grille isn’t necessary on an electric car, the BMW i Vision Circular sports a heavily evocative design of the enormous grille that appears on BMW’s gas-powered vehicles. The kidney-shaped headlights on the front give the BMW branding to this EV. The headlights are formed by vertical and diagonal lights that stretch the width of the car’s front, suggesting a grille but functioning as practical headlights.

Other EVs from different brands do not need to suggest a grille and have done away with having one. The Kia Niro EV, Tesla Model 3, and Hyundai Kona Electric all have smooth front ends.

The sustainability of the BMW i Vision Circular

The Drive calls the BMW i Vision Circular “genuinely likable.” Its style retains the BMW feel, but it’s also evidence of BMW’s transition to an environmentally conscious auto company. By 2030, BMW expects to sell 10 million BEVs. In addition, “every second car off its assembly lines will be electric at the end of the decade,” says The Drive. BMW is working to reduce its carbon emissions from production and its suppliers by 40%.

The i Vision Circular represents a bigger vision than just switching from gas to electric. For environmental reasons, the i Vision Circular is made of recycled parts, and less glue is used. It’s made to be quickly taken apart, which makes repairs easier. In addition, parts are attached with just one fastener when possible to make it easier to replace just the broken piece rather than a more prominent part.

These attributes point to BMW’s attention to its overall carbon footprint, including its cars’ “sustainable supply chain and end-of-life recyclability,” says MotorTrend. This philosophy will be applied to all of BMW’s vehicles. Currently, BMW vehicles use 30% reusable and recycled materials, and BMW plans to increase that to 50%.

This tiny hatchback car is different from today’s popular SUVs and crossovers. The BMW i Vision Circular has laser-etched logos instead of exterior badges, which reduces production energy. The battery is made from mostly recycled elements and is designed to be fully recycled.

The car’s exterior is finished in anodized aluminum without paint and heat-treated steel, and the interior has pale pink-violet blush velvet upholstery made from recycled PET. The crystal touchpad dashboard has a purple shimmer, and the steering wheel is 3D-printed from wood dust or other organic materials.

BMW may be known for its giant grilles, says Motor1, but it’s still a surprise to see the suggestion of one appearing on the BMW i Vision Circular. The BMW i Vision Circular stands out for its environmental design, but its “grille” ties it to the rest of the BMW brand.

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