The future is undeniably exciting. The more extensive electrification of everything that rolls depends partly on the technology itself, but also on the manufacturers' varied and facet-rich plans for the future. Electricity means a new start, and an opportunity to profile themselves again in an increasingly tough market.
Of course, BMW should also jump on the electric car train. In the vicinity of the Dingolfing plant, a new logistics center is being built on an area of 28 hectares, in conjunction with the upcoming iNext next year. A cost-intensive project that hardly gets cheaper by the fact that everything is destined for the moment, paralyzed by the corona virus.
However, the plans are still adhering to the release of two extremely important electric powered models 2021. First out is the i4, an electric alternative to the 4 series and a direct challenger to Tesla's increasingly successful Model 3. Shortly thereafter, the production model of the iNext concept follows all security will be called i5, a five meter long suv that takes up the fight with Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X.
The new i4 is expected to emerge during the first half of 2021. The middle class sedan is based on the CLAR platform (Cluster Architecture) and will guide the manufacturer's core values towards an electric future.
Actually, however, you had no idea of electrified powertrains when developing CLAR architecture, but just like at X3, you have succeeded in adapting the battery technology before 2022 will present a significantly more flexible successor to today's platform.
First, in connection with the 2021 generation change, BMW's smallest suv is equipped with more electrified powertrains.
i4 is equipped with a battery pack with a capacity of up to 80 kWh, which in the model's strongest variant drives two electric motors with a total system power of 390 kW (530 hp). Thus, the 1.9-tonne sedan will sprint from 0 to 100 km / h in four seconds. The range is set from official distance to 550 km according to the WLTP cycle.
However, much more interesting are the lower-impact i4 versions. With around 200 kW and a base price of SEK 600,000, the model becomes a better alternative. In the opposite direction, however, i5 goes according to rumors in a price segment around SEK 900,000. But then the driver gets access to a variety of assistance systems that can take over the driving autonomously according to Level 3.
In order to make it specially adapted for different driving settings, the traditionally round steering wheel is abandoned and instead focused on an angular shape. It gives, according to BMW, a better sense of space and an overview of the large and curved instrument screen. For the i5 production, investments in the Dingolfing factory are at EUR 400 million.
Technically takes i5 new steps compared to i4 and it is a bridge pillar on the road to a whole new architecture. Only then can you use all kinds of powertrains, from ordinary fossil engines via hybrids to pure electric powertrains. The new platform will be used for the first time as the basis for the upcoming 7-series, which will premiere in 2022.
Since the latest luxury sedan's latest facelift, which included a new exterior design language with the gigantic double kidney as the main hallmark, the manufacturer had to face massive criticism for its new design.
However, the criticism came mostly from domestic brands. However, the new design is received with open arms in the export markets in China and the Middle East, which are much more important for the manufacturer's sales than the European one.
From official sources, we hear that the oh-so-deprecated design element will eventually be used throughout the range of models, in a more or less pronounced form. By contrast, the headlights are becoming smaller due to the increasingly compact OLED and LED technology.
The new design and technology trend is being driven by CEO Oliver Zipse and is expected to be a success. Zipse, who replaced the departing Harald Krüger in 2019, is judged to be more actionable than his predecessor and requires quick decisions without relying on the board's unanimous support. For example, Zipse wants to be able to reduce the development time for new models by 30 percent. However, despite his demands, he is regarded as a harmonious manager who treats his colleagues with respect.
The face lift was actually planned for autumn 2020, but due to the corona crisis we probably have to wait until winter. Alongside a new look, the new 5 Series gets more mild hybridized powertrains.
However, harmony is not counted as one of the most prominent skills of the development manager Klaus Fröhlich, who not too long ago fought to reintroduce the brand's core values as driving dynamics in the new fleet.
He even managed to push through a cost-intensive, mechanical differential to the 3 Series and Z4 to reestablish BMW's ancient reputation as driving dynamic driving cars. Following his recent battle with the board, a well-deserved (and voluntary) pension is now waiting for Fröhlich.
He is succeeded by an old schoolmate of Zipse. Frank Weber plugged in mechanical engineering at the University of Darmstadt with the CEO, and has worked with the manufacturer since 2011. Prior to that he was employed by Opel and the parent company of GM, Weber was responsible for the Opel Ampera charging hybrid, which was considered very exotic when it was released in 2012.
At about the same time, BMW dared to develop electric cars i3 and i8. It would turn out to be a loss business, but at the same time a chance to learn from the failure. That is precisely why you do not develop pure electric car platforms, but instead invest in flexible architectures.
Since Weber is also in charge of the 7 Series and luxury car manufacturer Rolls-Royce, he is very familiar with the new architecture and the appropriate powertrains.
Already today, the X3 brand is the most successful suv and it is available with most powertrains. A new generation will not come until 2023.
Unfortunately, that means that the silky V12 engine gets the ax, a drop shot for anyone interested in technology. One can take comfort that the decision applies only to BMW models. The lovely engine is still at the Rolls-Royce subsidiary.
The new platform allows for a more compact powertrain package, which in turn creates larger interior surfaces at identical exterior dimensions, but without, for that matter, reaching the superior space of the electric cars.
But what engines will henceforth ruin the giant double kidney? The major part consists of internal combustion engines (mostly diesels) with a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which is currently being introduced on a broad front over the entire model range.
In the interior, large screens take on an even more prominent role, physical buttons and knobs disappear and in future cars their functions can instead be integrated into other surfaces such as fabric or wood-clad panels.
Really so futuristic, however, will not be the upcoming, facelifted 5-series. The transition to mildly hybridized powertrains has already begun, and in the next step the six-cylinder power sources also follow the same path. The Face-Lifted 5 Series also invests in a modified exterior as well as an enhanced functionality for its assistance systems which, for example, enables autonomous reversing. Through wireless updating, it should even be possible to retroactively order the adaptive M-chassis, since the hardware is already on board.
A range of around 600 km is promised using an 80 kWh battery. In addition, the new i4 should be able to sprint at 0 – 100 km / h in four seconds. Less potent variants will come later.
The same goes without saying also for the second generation 4-series that is already coming in the fall, but then first and foremost in coupé form. We will have to wait until next year for the roofless variant. However, there is not much room for engineers, since the 4-series is technically based on the unusually variable 3-series. However, the cars are distinguished by an even sharper steering wheel and new 4-series tires to emphasize its sporty character.
In order to fulfill Zipse's promise that by 2021, 50 percent of the conventional powertrains have been replaced by electric, the 4 Series alongside the 420d and 430d will also receive the 40i engine with mild hybrid technology. The BMW 430i has yet to manage without electric traction assistance.
Not quite as easy is the transition for the mini SUV X1, which despite its premium stamp competes in a very price-sensitive segment, where already a discrete price increase of SEK 5,000 can mean losing customers.
When the compact SUV is presented in its third generation, it is gradually being converted to electrified powertrains. A fully electric X1 may also be on the map, although its platform is not at all intended for it.
By 2022, the new generation will enter the market with new looks, advanced headlights and electrified powertrains.
The larger X3 has already this year been transformed into the brand's most versatile suv and with the introduction of fully electric iX3 all powertrains on the market are offered.
It may not even be the sequel that will peak in 2023. However, using the car's new architecture, space can be utilized more efficiently, while the power sources can be further refined, for example with battery cells with 20 percent higher energy density, which in turn reduces the weight while maintaining capacity.
Thus, BMW's road is clearly paved, but as so often in life also applies here: no matter what you do, you do wrong. If you have previously blamed the mark for too discreet and boring design, you have in the current situation comments that the design team has been given too free rein.
One mocks the double kidney, calls it trumpet but at the same time misses that the brand's technical direction has never concentrated as consistently as now on what constitutes a BMW, namely driving dynamics. Add to that other, not as prominent, progress as extremely efficient and lean powertrains and a sensible view of the transition to electrified vehicles and suddenly that double kidney no longer feels particularly important.
Five questions to Robert Irlinger, BMW Production Manager
Why does BMW not build its own electric car architectures?
We have dismissed a clean electric car platform because large production volumes are required for such to pay off. Instead, we choose to achieve our environmental goals by implementing our electric drive in as many different models as possible.
How flexible is the electric powertrain?
With the help of different formats on the battery cells we have developed modules and high voltage batteries for different dimensions. For sucks like the new iX3 and the upcoming iNext, there are thicker battery modules, for our upcoming sports sedan i4 significantly lower.
Exactly how do you manage to achieve a scaling effect?
At cell and module level, there are similarities between our different high voltage batteries, which means we can scale both the purchase and the production how we want.
How many electric cars are sold to meet the environmental requirements?
Meeting the emission requirements is no problem for us. With today's partially electrified and fully electric vehicles, we are able to meet the environmental goals for 2020 and 2021.
Soon comes iNext, a model that stands out among the remaining flora of the model, right?
Yes, it is with iNext that is being built here with us in Dingolfing and utilizes all existing components such as our gen-5 electric drive line, electronics with 5G and various systems for autonomous driving, which will then find their way to other models . iNext is, so to speak, the launching pad for the next generation of large BMWs.
ANIMAL AND EXOTIC ENGINES ARE SCRAPED
Because of the even stricter emission requirements According to Euro 6d-final and Euro 7 as well as a generally low demand in the markets affected by the environmental requirements, two technically very special engines can be hit on the foot. The 12-cylinder petrol engine is only available in the 7 Series, but the magnificent diesel stove with four (!) Turbochargers also serves in the 5 Series, X5, X6 and X7.
The V12 engine N74B66TÜ has a volume of 6 592 cm3 and twelve cylinders that stand in two rows of six angled apart at 60 degrees. Due to the complicated casting process, the water cooling circuit of the cylinders is closed. Thanks to two Garrett turbochargers, the almost square power package has an output of 609 hp and 800 Nm.
Quad turbo diesel engine B57D30S0. From a line of six with only 2,993 cm3 engine volume, BMW's engineers manage to squeeze 400 hp and 760 Nm at an injection pressure of 2,500 bar. The two low pressure turbochargers can be disconnected at full acceleration in order to be able to build up charge pressure more quickly in the high pressure turbochargers.
Mikael Johnsson, test manager:
“The benefits of BMW's strategy are obvious”
That is a very interesting fact that BMW now chooses not to continue with dedicated electric car platforms. Apparently, the i3 project has been burned – despite the fact that it hardly sold poorly and also learns to have boosted BMW's image as a future brand. For now, you know – better than most – exactly what it costs and what volumes are required for an electric car investment to go plus. (Although you might not have had to rebuild the car in carbon fiber again?)
Instead, a kind of smooth transition awaits, where all kinds of powertrains and fuels, including electricity, are welcome in most bodies.
The advantage is obvious. Should the transition to electric cars come off completely or drag out on time, you just adjust production a little and sell more 4-series than i4s. If the opposite should prevail and customers start screaming for electric power in all classes, then they have the opportunity to offer pure electric power in more body types than in a few specials.
At the same time. How good will the electric cars be? Surely it feels like there is a great risk that you will not be able to fully utilize the benefits of the electric car? Can compartment and luggage compartments become competitive when space still needs to be found for internal combustion engine, tank and exhaust system? You will meet dedicated electric car platforms such as VW's MEB.