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Issue: Oct 2011


BMW builds its DNA into new ā€œiā€ range



by Nick Palmen

BMW expects to launch purpose-designed and built electric and hybrid vehicles within the next two years. They will be very different to the current pilot fleet of electric Minis, and driving enthusiasts will still have power and acceleration on tap. Automotive Industries (AI) went to the Frankfurt Motor Show to find out more.

But first, we asked Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development , what the new BMW 1 Series offers in terms of innovation and efficiency.
Draeger: Since we launched the 1 Series BMW in the premium compact segment it has sold over one million units all around the world. The new 1 Series is a continuation of this premium car segment for BMW. Of course, there are changes – the new car is a little bit longer and wider, with a little bit longer wheelbase giving more legroom at the rear as well as bigger luggage compartment. It is still a real premium compact car, but is more like a well trained athlete.

In terms of innovations, there are two areas where we’ve made huge progress. One is in terms of EfficientDynamics – we will only offer turbo charged engines with an entry of 1.6l BMW twin power turbo technology. They all feature direct injection sitting in a central position between the four valves, delivering very good response and efficiency. In addition, we have 8-speed gearbox Stepronic with auto start/stop function and ECO PRO mode, which is a new mode that gives the driver a chance to save up to 15-20% in fuel. 

Secondly, we will offer a wide range of ConnectedDrive applications. BMW ConnectedDrive stands for safety, comfort and infotainment. One feature is Real Time Traffic Information, which continuously calculates updated traffic information in real time. Drivers are able to react in due time to avoid congested areas by changing their route. The display shows the roads around you in colors – green, red or yellow including the different lanes in both directions. We are also introducing different lines for the 1 Series. We have Urban Line and Sport Line – and, of course, we will have the M sports package from next year. 

AI: Will we see any of the new 1 Series technologies in the new 3 Series?

Draeger: 1 Series and 3 Series are from the same family. If we have 1 Series models with turbo charged engines, then we will have the 3 Series with turbo charged engines. The same applies for the automatic gearbox and the ConnectedDrive applications, So, yes, we will find a lot of these technologies in the 3 Series. 

AI: What more is the new M5 going to offer than its predecessor? 

Draeger: There are two significant differences. We have greatly improved fuel economy and we achieved this with even more power and more torque. The new M5 can clearly be seen as a better sedan for a long distance drive than its predecessor. There is now no compromise between a sports car and a car for a long distance driving.  

AI: What approach do you take with the BMW i3 and BMW i8 Concept?

Draeger: First we have to talk about the brand. BMW is a very strong brand, enhanced by BMW M, our well established sub-brand for exclusive and highly sporty cars. But we see more and more customers with a great interest in having a premium car which fulfils their expectations in terms of sustainability even better than today’s models can. These are people who want to show to the outside world that they care. We believe that with our “i” sub brand, we can deliver a specific product for customers we were probably not going to reach with a conventional product. So, the BMW i sub-brand is for customers looking for maximum sustainability in premium products. 

The two new products i3 and i8 are basically two bookmarks – i3 Megacity 100% electric vehicle (available with a range extender later), and the all new BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, where we combine a powerful turbo-charged three-cylinder engine on the rear axle with an electric motor on the front axle. The BMW i8 can drive in three different modes – purely electrical, combining electrical and gasoline, and gasoline alone for long distance. The fuel consumption will be under 3 l/100km with  the acceleration and the performance of a BMW M3. 

AI: What new technologies can we see for the first time in i3 and i8?

Draeger: With are convinced that it is not ideal to convert a conventional car into an electric vehicle since you will always end up with a compromise. You have an empty engine compartment with just a small electric motor, and there is never sufficient space for the battery in the area where the fuel tank is situated. 

So, what we need is a purpose-built architecture designed around the necessities of electric mobility, especially with designated space for the battery and the electric motor. The BMW I models have what we call a Life-Drive-Architecture. The so called Drive module  is an aluminum frame that holds the battery, the electric motor,  the electronics and also carries the front and the rear axles. Mounted on top  is the Life module, which is a body-in-white (BIW) basically made from very light and strong carbon fiber. This architecture gives us liberties in interior and exterior design making the BMW i models extraordinary and easy recognizable. The biggest achievement certainly is the extremely low weight. The intelligent mix of materials gives us an advantage of 250-300kg compared to converting a conventional vehicle to an electric one. 

AI: You have a joint venture with SGL Carbon for production of carbon fiber. What are the advantages for BMW? 

Draeger: We have used carbon fiber in conventional vehicles for quite some time. You can see carbon fiber components on the high performance products like M3 & M6. Some of them are structural parts, others are exterior like the carbon fiber roof on the M3. But as we expect to have a quite substantial usage of carbon fiber in the future, we decided to set up the joint venture thus securing our supply. SGL has a great carbon fiber competence, and is therefore an ideal partner. Combining the SGL expertise with the BMW know-how gives us a head start. 

AI: When do you plan to launch the i3 and the i8?

Draeger: We will launch the BMW i3 in late 2013 and the BMW i8 in 2014..

AI: What is the future of the BMW’s i family, can we expect any models between i3 and i8?

Draeger: There are a lot of opportunities as well as a lot of ideas. But first let’s see the take off of the two cars than of course we can add further vehicles to fill the strategic gap we deliberately decided to leave in between.

AI: What is the future of the Mini’s front wheel drive platform?

Draeger: We do not want to have BMW competing with Mini. We are taking the opportunity to bring really different cars on the same architectural characteristics to the market. We are able to introduce derivatives in terms of length, in terms of width and also in terms of height, but a Mini will remain a Mini. In addition, there is some space for new BMW models based on front wheel drive architecture.  



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