BMW’s head of product development has warned that electrification is the only way of meeting stringent emissions regulations in the future.

Herbert Diess, BMW’s board member for development, says that all BMW models will soon need to be sold with some form of electrification - be it in hybrid form or pure electric drive - even if it is not what customers are asking for.

Speaking to Autocar, Diess said: “The motivation is always sheer driving pleasure, whatever we do. Not everyone wants to take the bus or train. But that philosophy is under environmental pressure. Automotive is one of the most heavily regulated industries. What is coming in the future is not just a reaction to customer requests, but also regulation.”

Diess explained that European customers are likely to see most of the new electric-drive technology first, as regulations here are stricter than elsewhere.

“Europe is five to seven years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of where it is pushing us,” he said, citing European regulations that call for fleet average CO2 emissions of 95g/km by 2020. In comparison, the target in China is 119g/km and Japan’s is 117g/km by the same date, while the target in the US has been set at 102g/km by 2025.

“The challenge is in meeting 95g/km and delivering real driving pleasure,” said Diess. “We must also recognise that we are now hitting against a physical limit and it will be very difficult in the next 20 years to go to a 99g/km average, let alone 50g/km for the future. The only way to do that is to rely on a high percentage of electric cars.

“Electricification will be a central thread in what we do, be it plug-in hybrid, hybrid or full electrification. The i8 shows what’s possible even below 50g/km, but we will also offer all standard models with entry-level electrification. We will try to use the modular kit developed for the i3 and i8 on a kit basis.”