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BMW M close to revealing first electric car

Everything goes: Full-electric, plug-in hybrid and series-parallel hybrid powertrains are all under development at BMW M, but its first electrified model remains a secret.

M-only model in mix as BMW performance division prepares to enter electrified era

13 May 2019

BMW M GmbH chairman of the board of management Markus Flasch has revealed that the high-performance division is close to showing its first electrified vehicle – and that it could be an M-only car rather than one based on a mainstream BMW model line.


In an interview with Australian journalists last week, Mr Flasch confirmed that the M division is working on the three major powertrain alternatives – series-parallel hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full battery-electric – and while he was not prepared to divulge launch timing for the debutante, he said “it is not too far in the distance”.


“Everything that brings competitiveness and performance to a car is relevant for M and we see a lot of potential in both technologies (hybrid and full-electric),” he said.


“There is no dogma in how we equip our cars, so as soon as one of those technologies qualifies for proper M specifications we will make them available.


“We cannot yet disclose whether it will be an M-only car that we will first launch this technology, but it has potential.


“It might also be a standard, as you call it, car that offers the technology.”


Mr Flasch said he had “no fear” that M would remain as relevant as it does today as tougher environmental regulations prompt the accelerated development of electrified powertrains.


“It’s like in motorsport, if the rules change, you need to see these changing rules as an opportunity,” he said, pointing to the fact that electric drivetrains can enable much higher outputs.


“When we talk about electric vehicles, this offers a huge opportunity for us because if you think about current systems, you pretty much control the engine output over braking, or brake systems – you destroy energy with it.


“On an electric car, if you think about four independent engines, you can do this type of control on the power side, not on the braking side, and this is where we think we will make a difference when it comes to electric cars.


“This is where we are very strong compared to the rest of BMW and also compared to the competition.


“As long as you get the exact right amount of torque to the wheel in the right situation … then there is no certain number of horsepower or limit to the power, it’s just about how you control it.


“Today’s systems with combustion engines and hydraulic brakes are pretty much on their limit, but we will push that further when it comes to electrification.”


Asked if BMW M was working to a definitive timeframe to have electrified vehicles across its model range, Mr Flasch told GoAuto: “There isn’t, but if there was I wouldn’t disclose it.


“We won’t see a switch, black and white. There won’t be one point in time where combustion engines disappear and hybrid will replace them, and then another point in time where battery-electric vehicles replace hybrid.


“What we might see is that, depending on the market, depending on the segment, we will see different technologies in parallel.”


Mr Flasch said BMW’s current vehicle architecture meant it was technically possible for M to offer both electrified and combustion-engined versions of the same model line, such as M3, but given the lower volumes of the M-badged cars compared with their mainstream cousins, such a move was unlikely.


He also said it was too early to confirm which model lines were better suited to full-electric power versus hybrid.


Although unwilling to discuss the program for BMW’s next-generation i8 plug-in hybrid sportscar, Mr Flasch said the M division was continuing to work closely with other subsidiaries such as the i-car unit and the motorsport arm, which has invested heavily in Formula E. 


He said: “i does not only stand for electrification.


“Both our companies (M and i) use electric powertrain systems – it doesn’t mean there’s a conflict because M will always stand for performance … and i will stand for innovation, incubation of new technology, autonomous driving. That’s different from us.”


BMW’s first battery-electric vehicle to reach the market is expected to be the iX3 SUV, which is due in 2020 and will rival the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron – the Bavarian brand’s two main competitors which are also using SUVs as their entrance point to the all-electric era.


Other confirmed EVs include the i4 and a second SUV based on the iNext concept, both due in 2021.

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