Though Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s rumored iPhone announcement dominates most investors’ September calendars, I’ll be eagerly awaiting a very different event thousands of miles away from Cupertino, Calif. In Frankfurt, Germany, at the 2013 IAA Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) will officially debut its 2015 i8 plug-in hybrid electric car. And in advance of that unveiling, the company has released some intriguing technical details of the car– including that the car’s rear window will feature Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW)‘s Gorilla Glass .
The BMW i8. Source: Company photo.
Driving in a new direction
Odds are that, even if you don’t think you know what Gorilla Glass is, you’ve already come in contact with it a few hundred times today. According to Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW)’s website , Gorilla Glass is found on over 1.5 billion advanced devices, covering 1,000 product models from 33 major brands. And, many people will be coming in contact with it a lot more in the near future, for Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) will soon be featuring its Gorilla Glass NBT in touch-screen notebooks.
Incorporating the Gorilla Glass into cars is a deceptively big deal. It offers Corning a chance to gain traction in a new industry. Granted, it may seem like a stretch for the material to leap from a single luxury car to wide use throughout the automotive market. But remember that the first person to monkey around with Gorilla Glass for smartphones was Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s Steve Jobs, who was looking for a way to prevent his keys from scratching his phone’s display. In essence, Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) gained its foothold in the smartphone market by first being introduced in that sector’s luxury model: the iPhone.
Gorilla on wheels
The i8 will feature two laminated sheets of 0.7mm thick Gorilla Glass sandwiching an acoustic sheet in the rear window. This will dampen the sound, providing for a quieter ride, but that’s not the sole purpose for incorporating the glass.
Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) senior vice president Jeff Evenson summed up why BMW and other automakers would benefit from incorporating Gorilla Glass into their cars at MIT Technology Review‘s Mobile Summit in June. He suggested that using the Gorilla Glass will reduce the vehicle’s weight and lower its center of mass, consequently, improving its fuel economy by a few percentage points depending on how much of the glass is used.
Car buyers prize good fuel economy as a way to reduce the pain of high gas prices. And automakers are facing strict Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards of 54.5 mpg, which will be in place by 2025. Incorporating Gorilla Glass may be one approach to help meet those standards.