Hybrid and Hydrogen On Display at the 2015 BMW Innovation Days

Last week BMW Group rolled out some sweet new hybrid and hydrogen technology as part of their “Innovation Days”, a showcase of things we’ll soon see in production vehicles and across the entire fleet.

The two biggest takeaways for us are the prototype 2 Series ActiveTourer with Hybrid Drive, and progress on their Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle.  Both are part of the automakers “eDrive” technology program.  If you’re not familiar with eDrive, it’s the same technology that’s in the now legendary i8, and the i3.  With these models in production, costs are dropping and opportunities are increasing to integrate eDrive tech into other models.

The BMW 2 Series ActiveTourer with Hybrid Drive

BMW 2 Series ActiveTourer with HybridDrive prototype. Image courtesy of BMW Group PressClub Global.

BMW 2 Series ActiveTourer with HybridDrive prototype. Image courtesy of BMW Group PressClub Global.

 

Electric mobility has added another new facet to the BMW model line-up. The BMW eDrive technology developed for BMW i cars is spreading its wings into other vehicle concepts as part of a plug-in hybrid drive system, highlighting its flexibility. And here we find it linking up with a front/transverse-mounted combustion engine for the first time. The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid prototype presented in Miramas is kitted out with a three-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine driving the front wheels, a high-voltage generator mounted in the front structure and an electric motor sending its power to the rear wheels. The result is road-linked all-wheel drive similar to that of the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, but here arranged in a mirror image.

 

The story is much the same for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and many other marques: hybrid technology is the next phase to unlocking significantly greater fuel economy for consumers. All electric is in the mix, but hybrid is the way to bridge short term concerns about familiarity, charge availability and range.

In this case, BMW took a perfectly good 2 Series ActiveTourer and added a 3-cylinder twin-turbo gasoline engine under the hood.  But to spice it up, they strapped an electric motors to the front AND rear axle.  1 engine, 2 electric motors.  Turbocharging helps the 3-banger put out 136 bhp–but the prototype generates 395 total Nm of torque.  This helps the little guy go from 0-62 in 6.5 seconds.

BMW claims fuel economy of 2 liters per 100km.  That’s pretty staggering, as it converts to 117 mpg.  We should keep a wary eye on this figure as the car and it’s tech move closer to EU and US showrooms.  I’m certain this is a very economical powertrain.  But 117 mpg?

Drivers will be able to choose from a variety of driving and power modes.  Driving modes in the prototype are the same as they are in production 2 Series ActiveTourers.  BMW added 3 power modes to manage the hybrid powertrain.  It’s better to let BMW explain the differences:

Auto eDrive: this hybrid mode is activated as the default setting in Comfort mode every time the vehicle is started. The engine and electric motor combine to extremely efficient effect in this setting. Under normal loads, the vehicle initially sets off purely on electric power. Once the speed exceeds approximately 80 km/h (50 mph) or under strong acceleration, the engine cuts in automatically. When route guidance is activated, the system automatically calculates how to make the most efficient use of the energy generated by the electric motor and combustion engine, with all-electric driving prioritised over sections of the route where it makes most sense. In Comfort mode, the high-voltage battery is automatically recharged by the high-voltage generator to a charge up of around 15 percent.

 

Max eDrive: in this setting, the vehicle is powered by the electric motor alone. Top speed is limited to around 130 km/h (81 mph), while the all- electric range is some 38 kilometres. Accelerator kickdown brings the combustion engine into play.

 

Save Battery: This mode allows the energy stored in the high-voltage battery to be deliberately kept at a constant level or increased again up to 50 percent (when its charge drops below that mark) by efficiently raising the engine’s load points and using energy recuperation. The stored energy can then be used for all-electric driving at a later stage in the journey, for example when driving through an urban area.

 

The upside of fusing eDrive tech into an existing production model?  BMW forsees the prototype 2 Series ActiveTourer with Hybrid Drive having a sticker price at or very near those of it’s gasoline-only brethren.



The BMW Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

 

Back in 2006, BMW was one of the first to put a hydrogen powered vehicle on the road.  The BMW Hydrogen 7 had 7-Series luxury with futuristic performance.  It was a well ahead of it’s time as a production vehicle.  This was good, as they gave test cars for celebs to drive and be seen in.  This was bad, as the car was banned from places like the Holland Tunnel.  No matter the built-in safety features, the authorities were wary of a hydrogen explosion in an enclosed area.

 

But, as the song by the Monkees goes, “that was then, this is now”.

The BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. Image courtesy of BMW Group PressClub Global.

The BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. Image courtesy of BMW Group PressClub Global.

 

This fuel cell vehicle is built on an existing 5-Series Gran Turismo production vehicle.  The FCEV will feature an electric motor that generates an equivalent of 245 hp.  Range is estimated at 300+ miles, thanks to an inline hydrogen storage tank and management system. BMW says they’ll have an initial array of components ready for approval by 2020.

 

Back in 2013, BMW and Toyota partnered to further their understanding of fuel cell.  Toyota came away with the Mirai.  BMW looks like it is on the way to developing fuel cell to the point where it could be easily implemented if consumer demand dictates.  But don’t take it from me, take it from BMW:

 

Our aim is to establish hydrogen fuel cell drive technology as an integral element of the BMW Group’s Efficient Dynamics strategy for the long term. This would create a drive system portfolio of the greatest possible variety, which can be adapted flexibly to different vehicle concepts, customer desires and legal requirements around the world:

 

-Highly efficient combustion engines with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology.

 

-Intelligently controlled plug-in hybrid systems with BMW eDrive or Power eDrive technology enable low-emission electric driving very much in the BMW mould.

 

-Locally emission-free, battery-electric vehicles with a high-voltage battery like that of the BMW i3.

 

-Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) with hydrogen fuel cell technology and BMW eDrive electric drive system.

 

With this flexible drive system portfolio designed to provide efficient personal mobility, the BMW Group is ideally prepared for the global challenges of the medium and long term when it comes to reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

 

BMW, like everyone else, understands that the automotive sector is in a period of dynamic change.  But, unlike many other marques, BMW is positioning themselves to be able to supply drivers with a BMW driving experience no matter where they are, and whatever emissions standards they are governed by.

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