Meet Christian Fischer the man who started Bcomp a decade ago in a garage and today sees his sustainable technology in Formula 1 cars, high-end road cars, sailing yachts, skis and even watches. Bcomp’s flax-based sustainable alternative to carbon fibre is a true motorsport industry disruptor.
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It’s great to be speaking with you Christian. In recent months we have seen Bcomp technology on McLaren’s Formula 1 car, a Porsche GT4 and even a Baltic Yachts Café Racer why is that important?
Well, first off, I would say that Bcomp is a company with a purpose. We are a Swiss company and are very connected to the natural world. We are surrounded by beautiful mountains and in fact, the first project we undertook in our garage all those years ago was to create a pair of lightweight and high-performance skis. Sport is still a very important area for us, whether that is surfing, skiing or cycling.
Bcomp bridges the gap between natural products and high-tech. Sustainability and performance are no longer incompatible – there is now a direct correlation between the two. We see large-scale markets, particularly in the mobility sector where we will have the biggest impact and motorsport is a fantastic gateway to that.
We believe that technology can solve many of the problems we are facing as a planet and I am delighted to see Bcomp’s technology on some of the biggest stages in the world.
So is Bcomp technology a direct replacement for carbon fibre?
In many situations, yes. We have seen that Bcomp ampliTex (natural fibre technical fabrics) with powerRibs (natural fibre reinforcement grid) is a viable replacement for carbon fibre bodywork in many racing series, some of which have been made public, and others that haven’t.
As we move towards greener mobility, both in the automotive and motorsport industries, we need to look at the vehicle as a whole, not just the powertrain, and we believe that Bcomp can play a significant role.
In the existing motorsport applications, what has been the motivation for choosing Bcomp amplTex with powerRibs above carbon fibre? Is it performance? Marketing? Sustainability?
There is a huge and demonstrable benefit when it comes to sustainability, so that is hard to ignore. In many applications, we can reduce the CO2 footprint of the part by more than 75%.
But in addition to being more sustainable, natural fibre composites are safer, because they do not create sharp splinters on impact. We have all seen races that have been decided by the leader getting a puncture having driven through carbon fibre debris. Flax fibre behaves in a fundamentally different way to carbon fibre and doesn’t shatter, so in the event of an accident, there isn’t the sharp debris you would normally expect to see. This safety benefit is interesting across the motorsport spectrum but is particularly beneficial on oval races where a tyre blowout can lead to a very serious accident.
And natural fibres also have better vibration damping properties compared to carbon fibre. When used in parts like seats, it improves driver comfort and reduces fatigue.
What do you see as the future of sustainability in motorsport?
. Increasingly we are all working in our private and professional lives to reduce our impact on the planet and motorsport isn’t exempt from that. If we as an industry turn our back on alternative technologies that can reduce our carbon footprint we will soon become unpalatable to our stakeholders whether they are sponsors, vehicle manufacturers or the wider public.
Motorsport is no different from any other industry or scenario, there is no silver bullet when it comes to sustainability. Just as we have started at home to recycle more, stop using plastic bags and single-use coffee cups, in business and sport we are making changes too.
A significant change will come in the form of the powertrain, where we are seeing a shift towards hybrid and pure-electric powertrains, but there are other gains to be made whether that is in bodywork or tyres, logistics or lubricants. We need to look at every element and ask the question ‘how can we do this better’ fortunately for motorsport it is a question we all ask ourselves daily, now we are simply applying it to sustainability as well as performance.
What are your hopes for the future of your business?
Firstly, I want to stay true to the core principles of the business when we set it up, which is important to us, and we want to remain a company that attracts talented staff who share our values and enjoy working here. In terms of future growth, I think we are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to applications in motorsport. We have completed some inspiring projects which prove the full potential of the technology, and the next step is to deliver on that potential in larger volumes.
There is a real feeling that we are in the right place at the right time with the right technology and I am very excited by the opportunity that offers.