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Electric BMW is on the table

Scorcher: New M3 gets an automated M-DCT transmission in July.

BMW to decide on an electric car this year, as six all-new models take shape

27 May 2008

BMW has revealed it will decide this year whether to build its first electric vehicle, via a new future-drive skunk works dubbed “project i”.

The news was announced by BMW AG chairman Dr Norbert Reithofer at the company’s 88th annual general meeting (AGM) in Munich on May 8, when he also reiterated the production futures of six additional new models.

“Later this year, we will decide about building an electric car,” said Dr Reithofer. “Today, modern lithium-ion batteries would allow for the combination of an electric drivetrain and sheer driving pleasure. Due to the limited reach, such vehicles would be most suitable to urban traffic.

“New drive concepts are handled by a new organizational unit called “project i” which is our think tank for completely new, sustainable mobility concepts. This is climate protection BMW-style.

“When it comes to traditional combustion engines, there are limits to what physics can do, even for our engineers. It won’t be possible to take this progress further only by implementing new technologies. And obviously, we must not lose track of costs here either.

“Climate protection may not be an excuse for stricter regulation or the enforcement of a country’s industrial politics interests. A reduction of carbon emissions has to be achieved for both small and large cars.

“The premium manufacturers will not be able to make up for savings potential in the mass segment left untapped. The mass market comprises 90 percent of all vehicles sold. The premium market has a share of 10 percent of new car registrations worldwide,” he said.

 center imageLeft, from top: BMW AG chairman Dr Norbert Reithofer, X Coupe concept, Concept CS and M3 M-DCT dual-clutch transmission.

Dr Reithofer said BMW needed a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) to meet future legislation in California, and suggested a range of electric micro-models could emerge to service “mega-cities” of more than 10 million people – fuelling further speculation of a fourth model line for BMW AG.

“With cities all around the world expanding into mega-cities, there is the risk of permanent traffic gridlock. Since 2006, more people have been living in urban than in rural environments. And the number of people moving into cities is continuing to grow. Today, China already has close to 100 cities with more than one million inhabitants.

“In 1950, there were only two cities with more than ten million inhabitants in the world. Today, there are more than 20 such mega-cities, only four of these, by the way, in the industrialized world. According to forecasts, the Greater Tokyo Area will be home to over 36 million people by 2015.

“What this shows is: the size and population density of these urban areas is threatening to turn individual mobility into an absurdity. The average speed in the Greater Tokyo Area is already down to 15km/h. At that speed, you might as well take the bike.

“There is good reason for me to tell you that: Japan is BMW Group’s second most important market in Asia, outdone only by the Chinese markets China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. So it is important to us that Tokyo residents do not go by bike but continue to drive our cars.

“What is more: Mega-cities are very different from one another. While Los Angeles will have a population of almost 18 million people on 14,000 square km in 2015, Seoul will have 25 million inhabitants on only 4400 sq-km.

“Lack of space is a major issue in Seoul - while it is something Los Angeles does not really have to worry about. In Beijing, on the other hand, the worst problem is air pollution. So it is unlikely that there will be a standard solution for big cities.” BMW has already staked a claim on hydrogen as its long-term sustainable mobility solution for zero-emissions motoring with a fleet of 100 Hydrogen 7 cars “entrusted to politicians, business leaders and artists”.

But on its way to mass production of either hydrogen-combustion or fully electric vehicles, BMW will join in the hybrid race with next year’s petrol-electric version of the X6.

First previewed by the “BMW Concept X6 ActiveHybrid” at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show, the X6 hybrid will be the first evidence of the company’s joint-venture with General Motors and arch-rival Daimler to co-develop a fully-fledged two-mode hybrid drivetrain.

“Today, it is the public perception to understand hybrid as the magic bullet to solve the problem of carbon emissions in road traffic. I have to say that the advertising campaign launched by our colleagues from Toyota caused quite a stir,” said Dr Reithofer.

“BMW’s answer is the next development step of EfficientDynamics which will be taken in 2009: the first BMW Hybrid.

“As an innovation leader, you do not always have to be the first company to offer a solution. But as soon as you do offer a solution, it has to be the best. This is at least our claim as a premium manufacturer. And we will deliver on this promise next year.

“It will be a mature full hybrid offering the sheer driving pleasure BMW is famous for. And it will need another 20 percent less fuel than a comparable car with a combustion engine.” Along with the X6 hybrid’s full V8 petrol-electric drive system, BMW has also indicated it will produce a mild hybrid option by mating a 15kW/210Nm generator, housed inside a “hybrid” transmission, with four-cylinder diesel power for the first time - as previewed by the X5-based “BMW Vision EfficientDynamics” mild hybrid concept that debuted at Geneva in March.

The variable twin-turbocharged diesel is similar in concept to the 2.0-litre engine in Europe’s 123d, which is also being considered for the Australian 1 Series and 3 Series hatch and coupe, but BMW claims its diesel-electric SUV features the world’s first all-aluminium diesel engine, produces 150kW and 400Nm for a total of 165kW, and returns fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km, CO2 emissions of 172g/km, 0-100km/h acceleration of 8.9 seconds.

While its production future is not confirmed, hybrid power will next year join the X6 range, which launches in Australia this August with twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline petrol and diesel engines powering the so-called X6 xDrive35i ($111,500) and xDrive35d ($117,000).

BMW’s twin-turbo trend takes its next step in late 2008, when a new 300kW/600Nm bi-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 joins the X6 range in the xDrive50i. With global 2008 production of the X6 already a sell-out, BMW Australia has received only half of its requested 2008 allocation of 500 examples.

Due here in March with twin-turbo petrol six (735i) and eight-cylinder (750i) power, an “evolutionary” new 7 Series sedan flagship will emerge at this September’s Paris show. The twin-turbo diesel 735d is due later in 2009, and the range-topping 760i V12 later still.

The redesigned Seven will be the first of four consecutive new replacement models for the E85 Z4 roadster (2010), E60 5 Series (2011) and E83 X3 (2012), but next year will also see the first of six all-new additional BMW Group models enter production.

As previously reported, confirmed for production this year is a new entry-level coupe to join the Phantom sedan and convertible models from a rejuvenated Rolls-Royce in the UK, the much-publicised Mini SUV courtesy of Magna Steyr and a top-shelf four-door 7 Series-sized grand tourer based on the 2007 Shanghai show’s Concept CS and designed to rival the likes of Porsche’s upcoming Panamera and the Aston Martin Rapide.

BMW has also confirmed an all-new sedan concept called the BMW Progressive Activity Sedan – a next-generation 5 Series-based four-door, initially dubbed the V5, which evolved from the Space Functional Concept and could now appear as early as 2011 – as well as the X1, a small BMW SUV based on the 1 Series.

Yet to appear in concept guise and not due for production for at least three years, the X1 will be both the fourth X model from BMW (following the X5, X3 and X6), as well as the fifth body style to emerge within BMW’s compact 1 Series model range, including the E87 five-door hatch on sale here since October 2004, the E82 coupe and E88 convertible on sale from this month, and the E81 three-door hatch that won’t be sold here.

Next cab off the local BMW release rank, however, will be the M-DCT automated double-clutch version of the M3 coupe, which at $163,900 will bring a $6900 price premium over the manual M3 when it arrives in July.

Both transmissions will be available in the all but confirmed M3 Sedan and M3 Convertible, which will be priced respectively lower and higher than the sold-out M3 Coupe ($157,000) when they go on sale here around December.

What's coming from BMW:
E82 125i/135i Coupe May
E88 125/335i Convertible May
E92 M3 Coupe M-DCT July
E71 X6 xDrive35i/35d August
E91 M3 Convertible December
E90 M3 Sedan December
E71 X6 xDrive50i December
F01/F02 735i/750i March 2009
E71 X6 hybrid 2009
All-new CS/GT four-door 2009
F01/F02 735d December 2009
New Z4 (Z2) 2010
New 5 Series (F10/F11) 2011
All-new sedan concept 2011
All-new X1 2011
New X3 (F25) 2012

Read more:

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BMW's latest causes M3 mania

First look: BMW revives 8 Series

BMW reveals future model plans


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