There's not much more than a cube of metal left at the end.
If you ever wonder what eventually happens to the pre-production test mules that appear in spy photos, then this video has the answer. It presents BMW’s process of recycling and dismantling models that can’t go to the public from the automaker’s purpose-built center for this job in Lohhof, Germany. While it’s initially sad to see stacks of old Bimmers ready for the crusher, there’s at least solace in knowing that as little material as possible goes to waste.
The recycling process starts by making the vehicles safe to rip apart. The coolest part of this step is the way the company hooks up the car to a cable and remotely detonates the airbags – one at a time. Each little explosion demonstrates just how quickly these devices can deploy in a collision. After that, the workers suck out all the fluids, like the coolant, oil, and even windshield cleaner.
With this work out of the way, it’s actually time to start ripping the vehicle apart. For example, a worker with powered shears snips off the catalytic converter, and a guy with a crane uses a giant claw to pluck out the engine and gearbox for further disassembly later. Technicians also separate glass, plastic, and other materials for later use. There’s even a process for melting the tires into a vat of molten rubber. Eventually, the model’s remaining carcass goes into a crasher and comes out a cube of metal.
The special production methods for the i3 mean that BMW has a slightly different process for it. The firm removes the massive battery pack from underneath the hatchback. The model’s extensive use of carbon fiber also lets the company recycle that material.
There’s no dialogue or music in this video, and after a few minutes the sounds of the various components coming apart becomes weirdly relaxing. By the end, the clip shows how BMW starts with a complete vehicle and transforms it into a variety of raw materials.