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Geneva show: Hybrid for BMW 5 Series

Five volts: BMW has added hybrid power to its new 5 Series, in concept form, at least.

Hybrid concept version to appear alongside BMW’s new 5 Series sedan at Geneva

1 Mar 2010

PROVING persistent US rumours correct, BMW has announced it will unveil a hybrid version of its redesigned 5 Series large sedan at the Geneva motor show.

The beguilingly named BMW Concept 5 Series ActiveHybrid makes its global debut along with the new 5 Series sedan range at the Swiss auto spectacular before the sixth-generation model arrives in Australian in June.

Combining a straight-six BMW engine with electric drive for the first time, the ActiveHybdrid 5 is only for show at this stage.

The 5 Series hybrid follows similar petrol-electric versions of BMW’s 7 Series limousine and X6 coupe-SUV, both of which mate a twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 with an electric motor.

However, while both hybrid BMW models are now on sale in the US, they are produced only in left-hand drive configuration. Should that change, BMW Australia says it will consider adding all three petrol-electric vehicles to its local range.

“If made available for our market, yes these would be considered,” BMW Australia spokesman Tim James told GoAuto.

“This (5 Series ActiveHybrid) is a concept study at this stage, but it provides an indication of the path being considered under the continuous improvement umbrella of BMW EfficientDynamics.

“Would we consider it for our market if this concept transpired into a production model? Yes, absolutely it would be considered, if made available,” he said.

14 center imageAs expected, the 5 Series hybrid hardware is based on BMW’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol six, which will power the F10-series 535i in Australia.

BMW says the combination of TwinPower Turbo engine technology and an electric motor reduces both fuel consumption and emissions by 10 per cent, while “generating particularly dynamic drive power for an even more sporting driving experience”.

The ActiveHybrid 5 also incorporates ZF’s new modular eight-speed 8HP automatic transmission, which will be standard across the 5 Series range here and also features in the ActiveHybrid X6 and ActiveHybrid 7.

Debuting in the top-shelf 760Li, the new 8HP gearbox is also fitted to Rolls-Royce’s forthcoming Ghost and BMW’s upgraded X5 luxury SUV, which will make its global debut at Geneva alongside the new 5 Series and upgraded 3 Series Coupe and Convertible. All four models will be available here mid-year.

As with the ActiveHybrid X6 and 7, the 5 Series’ full parallel, or two-mode, petrol-electric drive system allows for short periods of zero-emissions all-electric driving, and features an automatic idle-stop system that switches off the engine when the car is stationary, plus brake energy regeneration as seen on existing BMWs.

A 40kW electric motor is sandwiched between the inline six and transmission, energised by a high-voltage battery pack (of unstated type) mounted in a high-strength case near the rear axle.

Connected to the engine by an automatic clutch, BMW says the electric motor, which acts as a generator when the brakes are applied or the engine is in overrun, “ensures extremely spontaneous and dynamic acceleration whenever required”.

According to BMW, while the extra efficiency of most hybrids is largely limited to city traffic, its X6, 7 and now 5 Series-based hybrids also use less fuel at higher speeds because of “technically sophisticated power electronics masterminding the interaction of the combustion engine and electric motor and thus optimising the overall efficiency”.

The latest ActiveHybrid employs complex power electronics to provide “intelligent energy management” both in the interaction between the two drive units to deliver precisely what the driver requests with maximum efficiency, and in the storage of power for the vehicle’s ancillary units and comfort functions.

Naturally, as in the X6 and 7 hybrids, there’s an auxiliary climate-control system that can cool or heat the car by remote control, and all electrical functions in the hybrid Five remain available with the petrol engine off, including audio, climate and navigation systems.

The 5 Series ActiveHybrid goes further, however, by with what BMW claims in an unprecedented level of system parameter networking to deliver the optimum operating strategy for any given current – and future - driving condition.

BMW says it does so by combining data from its engine, chassis management and navigation systems to, for example, begin regenerative braking in advance of downhill driving to maximise energy recuperation.

The Bavarian brand claims the hybrid Five’s predictive networking capability, which could also switch off the petrol engine if the battery is fully charged with range of arriving at a destination like home, can extend the vehicle’s electric-only cruising range by up to 30 per cent.

Thus, BMW says the 5 Series ActiveHybrid is more dynamic, efficient and intelligent than its large hybrid sedan rivals, led by the Lexus GS450h and soon to include a host of diesel-electric luxury sedans from Volvo, Citroen and Mercedes-Benz, whose 2007 E300 BlueTec hybrid concept produced total output of 165kW/560Nm and returned just 5.4L/100km – in the less aerodynamic previous-generation E-class.

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