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BMW M and ‘i’ team up for green performance car tech

i for an i: The BMW i8 signalled BMW’s electrified performance car intentions back in 2013, but electrified M cars are also on the horizon.

Future M cars likely to benefit from BMW’s electric and plug-in hybrid push

14 Jun 2017

BMW’S alternative powertrain ‘i’ division is working closely with the ‘M’ performance car division to develop green powertrain technologies that will likely flow into future BMW M cars in the not-too-distant future.

M cars have traditionally been known for raw V8 and V10 power, and more recently twin-turbo straight sixes as found under the bonnets of the M3 and M4 twins, but tightening emissions regulations and a general engine downsizing trend means electrification of performance models is inevitable.

BMW i head of product management Alexander Kotouc said the i and M divisions were situated close together at the car-maker’s Munich headquarters and that it was natural for the two business units to collaborate.

“It’s not like we are two separate divisions and we are not talking to each other, of course we are doing developments together,” he said at last week’s 530e plug-in hybrid launch in Sydney. “Because if you look in the long run, it makes sense to have something like at least a hybrid in the BMW M division as well.”

While Mr Kotouc would not go into details about the developments, GoAuto understands that electrified M cars are currently being developed and they will maintain the high-performance focus of a traditional M model.

Mr Kotouc hinted at what could be to come from M that would incorporate alternative powertrain tech, but stressed that in the short term, BMW would continue to use petrol power and turbocharging to propel its M cars.

“I can’t talk too much about M division... but I can frame it as far as that currently what really makes M is this performance, power, the sound, the emotionality. Of course if you want to have to have those values in the future as well, you have to reconsider how best possibly you can combine it with electro-mobility.

“And what we are currently doing is we are looking at different ways how you probably do this. Is a purely electric M car the right answer? I am not quite sure. Probably something like a hybrid could be a solution. But I am honest with you, we are currently working on that.

“We don’t have a perfect solution. I think for the next five-to-10 years, BMW M would probably stay the same as you know it, because the majority of people who drive BMW M, they like the M cars how they are. They like the engines, they like the sound.

“If you look at the volumes of BMW M, the last thing you want to is push everybody into this direction – ‘you have to now drive an electric (car)’. That is not what we want to do. We want to give consumers a choice. And it is their option to really go into the vehicles that suit most the customer demands.”

When asked if he thought the internal combustion engine’s days were numbered, Mr Katouc said: “I think it is just a matter of time.

“If you look what ‘i’ car is capable of doing when it comes to acceleration, even today. I think in the long run, even if you look at purely performance-driven guys (car-makers), they will probably look into electric-driven performance cars as well because it just makes sense.”

BMW’s first attempt at an electrified performance car was with the plug-in hybrid i8 sportscar that was launched globally in 2013 and in Australia in late 2014 with a $299,000 plus on-roads pricetag.

It pairs a 170kW 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine – the same unit found in a number of Mini models – with a 96kW electric motor for an electric driving range of 35km.

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