High oil prices are creating opportunities for innovative and new component suppliers which can provide solutions in the quest for alternative sources of energy and more efficient combustion of fossil fuels.
BMW has joined with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors in a joint venture for the development of hybrid power concepts. The three companies are expected to invest $100 million or more in the project, which will be in addition to BMWâ€™s own research. The technology to be developed will be of the so-called â€œ2-modeâ€ type,â€ which allows electric-only operation under some city-driving conditions and uses its electric motors to boost highway performance. â€œThe creation of a shared technology platform for hybrid drives will allow us to more quickly integrate the best technologies on the market and will therefore exploit and strengthen the innovative potential of all participating companies,â€ explains Prof. Burkhard GÃ¶schel, Board of Management member for Development and Procurement at BMW AG. â€œBecause the technologies will be adapted to the individual vehicle models, the participating brands will retain their distinctive characters.â€
BMW says it has a technological lead in the race for fuel economy because taxation has seen European fuel prices being historically much higher than in the An example of BMWâ€™s â€œmore efficient, more dynamicâ€ philosophy is the 3 Series. The 1990 325i Sedan with automatic transmission had a 2.4-liter 6-cylinder engine developing 168 hp; accelerated from rest to 60 mph in 9.4 sec. and turned in EPA mileage of 18 city/22 highway. Todayâ€™s counterpart, the â€™06 325i Sedan, with automatic transmission, is larger, roomier, more refined, better equipped and fitted out with more safety features and technology. Yet, it is quicker, doing 0-60 in 7.2 sec, and is rated by the EPA at 21/29 mpg.
In addition to engine technology, BMW is making widespread use of weight-saving materials:
Engines. All but one current BMW engine has weight-saving basic construction materials: aluminum cylinder block and heads for V-8, V-12 and some 6-cylinder engines; as well as magnesium/aluminum composite construction in the newest 6-cylinders. Innovations include hollow camshafts and magnesium or aluminum ancillary components. Thermoplastic induction systems also reduce engine weight in some models.
Body: The front-end of all 5 and 6 Series models; aluminum hood and front fenders on the 7 Series. This has the spin-off of better front-to-rear weight distribution to improve vehicle handling.
Suspension: Lighter aluminum moving parts in the suspension system handle bumpy road surfaces better, improving handling and riding comfort.
Roof: Used for the first time on the new M6 Coupe, carbon fiber reduces overall weight and lowers centre of gravity.
Looking ahead, BMW is evaluating the BMW Active Hybrid Drive concept for high-performance vehicles on the basis of an Active Transmission and Super Cap technology. The Active Transmission supplements the conventional transmission by adding an electric power unit with integrated power electronics. This electric unit, which functions as a generator, motor and starter, replaces the torque converter.
Engine ancillaries, such as the power-steering pump, brake booster and air-conditioning compressor, are driven electrically from a high-capacity onboard electrical system. The power is stored in the vehicle in so-called Super Capacitors. The electric power functions much as a turbo- or supercharger, adding to the combustion engineâ€™s output.
Diesel engine: Lower sulfur Diesel fuel will allow BMW to offer U.S. customers sophisticated, desirable diesel performance and fuel efficiency.
Hydrogen is recognized as one of the best ways to power motor vehicles. Even though hydrogen can be generated cleanly from solar, wind and hydroelectric energy sources, the infrastructure for its production, distribution, and storage in the vehicle requires lengthy and intense technical and commercial development.
Recognizing that no company is able to introduce hydrogen as the â€œfuel of the futureâ€ on its own, BMW has initiated a number of joint ventures, including the Economic Transport Energy Strategy, launched with the support of the German government in May 1998 and now comprising Ara/BP, DaimlerChrysler, MAN, Opel, RWE, Shell, Total and Volkswagen. This ventureâ€™s main objective is to work together in preparing a strategy for the introduction of alternative energy and drive systems. Other major targets are to make the world transport system less dependent upon oil; to preserve finite resources; to further reduce emissions including CO2, and to expand the initiative to encompass all of Europe. In another significant CleanEnergy venture, the BMW Group plans a wide range of activities in China related to introduction of hydrogen as a primary source of future energy for that economy.
Fuel-cell. BMWâ€™s hydrogen concept includes a fuel cell to generate electricity for vehiclesâ€™ onboard use. The fuel-cell-powered Auxiliary Power Unit promises a higher degree of efficiency than is possible with engine-driven generation via an alternator, and has the advantage that air conditioning, heating and other vehicle ancillaries can be operated with the engine off.