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Hybrid 5 Series looms

Who's in charge here?: A petrol-electric version of BMW’s F10-generation 5 Series, launched this week in Portugal, could appear in less than three weeks.

BMW will offer hybrid power for the latest 5 Series soon

BMW logo10 Feb 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

BMW has indicated that a hybrid version of the new F10 5 Series range is on the drawing board for introduction within the near future.

An imminent introduction of a close-to-production concept version has already been widely speculated in the North American press over the last few weeks, with some reports suggesting an unveiling at the Geneva motor show next month, under the ‘ActiveHybrid 5’ moniker.

This would fall in line with the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 concept revealed in September. The ActiveHybrid 7 combines a V8 petrol engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission and an electric motor in a mild-hybrid concept.

Speaking to GoAuto at the 5 Series launch in Portugal this month, a BMW insider admitted the Bavarian marque is not likely to concede a market advantage over its Mercedes-Benz and Audi opponents in any area – “including the development of hybrid powertrains.” And while he would not be drawn into revealing any timing plans for such a vehicle, the BMW insider did say that we should stay closely tuned to developments.

14 center imageLeft: ActiveHybrid 7.

Asked to indicate what sort of engine an ActiveHybrid 5 might use, our source suggested that most people associate BMWs with six-cylinders – especially in hybrid-obsessed North America – so that while segment leading fuel economy and low emissions are essential for such a model to be a success, going down the four-cylinder path may not necessarily be in keeping with BMW’s image.

As the F10’s only naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine family for the time being is the N53 in 2996cc 3.0-litre capacity, it raises the possibility that a variation of this engine might be the recipient of the hybrid hardware.

Meantime in related developments, the head of BMW’s new eight-speed automatic transmission, Oliver Frank, told GoAuto that the F10’s ZF 8HP auto – as found on all Australian-bound 5 Series models including those using the aforementioned six-cylinder engine – is ready to receive the electric motor that hybrid applications require.

“The transmission is designed on our modular basis, so we can add hybrid components as part of an open structure,” he revealed.

“There is already the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Series, which uses the same eight-speed automatic gearbox, and (so) there is (provision for) an electric motor to be added in the housing." According to Mr Frank, as both the 7 Series and the new 5 Series share what is known within BMW as the same ‘backbone’, there is every likelihood that many of the same components will be interchangeable between the two hybrid vehicles.

“What we have tried to do is to make it as common and as suitable to all the different niche vehicles and applications,” he said.

“That’s why we have a modular design, so we can add some hybrid applications as a possibility.”

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