BMW with Carbon Ceramic Brakes…worth the buy!!?

If you are an automotive geek and are looking to design your dream car, carbon ceramic brakes would obviously top the list of accessories and technologies embedded in the car. Carbon ceramic brakes, also known as ceramic composite brakes, do look cool and the best part is the design/engineering aspect. Carbon ceramic material is used for the brake pads, instead of using semi metallic or asbestos brake pads and the rotors are an amalgamation of silicon, carbon and resin. The benefits of this system is they have the ability to function even at high temperatures as they do not retain heat. In fact, this would be the greatest advantage of the carbon creamic braking system. To emphasise this point – almost six tons of applied force is required to stop your vehicle, thereby generating intense heat even above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit with the boiling point of the fluid in the brake system going to around 500-700 degrees Fahrenheit. Carbon ceramic brakes disperse this immense heat before it reaches the brake fluid. To mention more about the pros of this system, the brake dust generated is very less as compared to conventional steel brakes. The dust acquires a magnetic property due to static electricity generated, which keeps the dust on the metal pads itself. The rotor also weighs less as compared to cast iron rotors. Also, carbon ceramic brakes produce less noise during the braking process. Carbon ceramic brakes facilitate significant weight saving; the brake wear and tear is also reduced; and carbon ceramic brakes maintain their performance in dry as well as wet conditions. Other advantages such as improved NVH (less Noise, less Vibration and less Harshness) quotient, corrosion free properties, and improved handling and driveability add to the usability and credibility of the carbon ceramic braking system.

BMW introduced the carbon ceramic braking system in 2012. Brembo, a global leader in design, production and development of braking systems, supplied the brakes. Brembo caters to an array of big brands including Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Lexus, Audi and Lamborghini. In 2009, Brembo entered into an equal share joint venture with SGL Carbon to develop carbon ceramic braking systems and exclusively manufacture and commercialise the carbon ceramic discs for commercial vehicles and passenger cars. BMW fitted carbon ceramic brakes on its M5, M4 and M3 variants after the M6 model. Consumers of these cars often contemplate if the new carbon ceramic brakes are worth the price. In 2001, according to Mercedes CL55 AMG F1, this system did not stop the car any faster than standard brakes; however, unlike the standard brakes, the carbon ceramic braking system did not overheat. Increased heating causes the braking distance to increase and hence ceramics are the vital component in carbon ceramic brakes. BMW equips all its cars with these brakes as ceramics fare well in preventing the pads, brake fluids and discs from blazing. Their weight saving feature reduces the unsprung mass and effectively facilitates better acceleration and handling.

However, all these good features come at a price. In the M4 model of the BMW, the brakes cost USD 9350 (including bigger rims for big wheels). Likewise, the carbon ceramic braking system in the M5 goes up to around USD 10,550. Hilariously, a visit to the auto garage to replace the ceramic brakes in case of breakage (while carbon ceramic brakes are better in many aspects as suggested above and do last long, they are not unbreakable) would be more expensive than a short trip to Bangkok. Automobile fanatics can have the carbon ceramic braking system incorporated in their Porche or any dream vehicle if they do not mind shelling a hefty amount; after all these beasts are amazing when it comes to on-road performance and the cool look of carbon ceramic brakes on bigger rims is not something anyone would want to miss.

Nikhil Kaitwade

With over 8 years of experience in market research and consulting industry, Nikhil has worked on more than 250 research assignments pertaining to chemicals, materials and energy sector. He has worked directly with about 35 reputed companies as lead consultant for plant expansion, product positioning, capacity factor analysis, new market/segment exploration, export market opportunity evaluation and sourcing strategies.