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New Washington Factory To Make Cutting Edge Car Parts

Doug Nadvornick

In central Washington, a German company is starting construction on a new factory. It will make a lightweight fabric for BMWs electric car. Governor Chris Gregoire and others say the plant will keep the region right in the middle of emerging green technology industries. Inland Northwest Correspondent Doug Nadvornick reports from Moses Lake.


I'm standing in a warm, dusty field, admiring a silver two–seat electric car made by BMW. It's the precursor to the German automaker's next model of electric car, a four–seater due to be released in 2013.

With me is Andreas Wullner. He's a managing director for a German firm, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers. His company will make part of the body for the new electric car, not with steel as in traditional vehicles, but with a fabric woven from tiny filaments of carbon.

Wullner: "It's lighter. The weight saving is 50 percent compared to steel. It's much stronger so the strength of the carbon fibers is much higher."

Car makers like BMW are working to offset the weight of bulky batteries in electric cars to maximize the distance the vehicles will travel. Wullner says the new plant means 200 temporary construction jobs and 80 permanent industrial jobs in a rural Northwest economy that's diversifying.

Andreas Wullner: "We were looking for 365 days, 24 hours a day, source of renewable electric energy."

And that led the company directly to the Northwest, where cheap hydropower is abundant.

The plant will add to the Northwest's growing presence in the emerging green energy field. That's according to Ross Macfarlane, who works for the nonprofit group Climate Solutions.

Macfarlane: "We're seeing a tremendous growth in Oregon, for example, in a variety of small car manufacturers, new vehicle manufacturers who are looking not only at automobiles, but two–wheeled, three–wheeled vehicles and a whole range of transportation solutions."

Moses Lake, Washington has long been attractive to aviation companies that want to test their planes. The new factory, to help build BMW's next generation of ground transportation, will open next summer.

I'm Doug Nadvornick in Moses Lake, Washington.

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