So far, the automotive industry has followed two distinct lines of thought when it comes to producing cars: Build your own from the ground up, like the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi MiEV, or electrify an existing model by swapping out its gasoline powertrain with an electric one, like the Smart ForTwo EV, the Fiat 500e, or the Volkswagen e-Golf, among others. Bavarian luxury juggernaut BMW has largely stuck to the first principle thus far, but it’s taking a solid look at the second strategy, Bloomberg is reporting.
The site indicated that BMW is considering taking some of its top-selling models — including the 3 Series sedan — and introducing plug-in hybrid versions to help the company contend with the tightening regulations regarding carbon emissions and fuel consumption. The plug-in hybrids can charge like an electric car, and drive solely on electric power for a limited range, before an onboard gasoline engine kicks in to keep the car going.
BMW already makes a fleet of hybrids — dubbed the ActiveHybrid line — but currently only one true plug-in. That’s the new $135,000 i8 sports car, which is a tour de force of modern design and engineering in just about every way. However, it’s prohibitively high price tag and low production volume don’t hold a lot of value for the company in terms of meeting regulatory targets. What it does do, though, is serve as a showcase of BMW’s latest cutting-edge technology.
“All BMW Group models benefit from BMW i. The fundamental technology involved in battery cells, electric motors and the power electronics will be used in our upcoming plug-in hybrid models,” BMW member of the board for development Herbert Diess said in a statement, as quoted by Automobile.
The company added that there will be plug-in options extended to “all its core-brand models.” This presumably includes everything from the teeny 2 Series up through the might 7 Series sedan. Then there’s the X line of utilities; BMW has already previewed an X5 built atop a hybrid powertrain, but we haven’t heard much since then.
Rather than investing millions into revamping its lineup to accommodate the models, the technology developed for the i series is reportedly expandable to the other cars in BMW’s portfolio. BMW says its plug-in architecture can easily be scaled to multiple vehicle sizes, so “it will therefore be possible to deploy it rapidly across the BMW model range,” Automobile said.
It’s said that, due to progress made with the advancement of lithium ion battery cells, BMW’s plug-ins could boast a 20 kWh battery pack that would enable them to move over 60 miles on electric power alone. While this doesn’t sound like much next to the 265-mile Tesla Model S, plug-in hybrids currently have trouble breaking the 40-mile mark, and many can’t even break 20.
BMW’s development of the vehicles is well underway; reportedly, the company is preparing a plug-in model of the X3 crossover as well as the X5, which will use BMW’s 240 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 95 horsepower electric motor, with a battery big enough to give a 25-mile all-electric driving range, at least in theory.