BMW has thrown its hat into the eco-supercar ring by confirming plans to place its spectacular diesel/electric-powered Vision EfficientDynamics concept into series production.
The futuristically styled plug-in hybrid, first revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, is set to undergo an accelerated development programme that aims to place the low-slung four-seater on sale in all of BMW’s key world markets, including the UK, by October 2013.
With performance targets similar to the M3 – 0-62mph in 4.8sec and a top speed limited to 155mph - the new carbonfibre-bodied coupé won’t be BMW’s fastest production model; that accolade will rest with next year’s all-new twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8-powered M5, according to Munich sources. .
But with combined fuel economy of over 75mpg and a CO2 emission rating of only 99g/km, it will certainly be among the company’s most frugal production cars.
Speaking at a media presentation in Leipzig, Germany last night, to commemorate the start of the Vision EfficientDynamics development process, BMW’s R&D chief Klaus Draeger said, “This car will crown our line-up. In terms of technology it sits well above anything we currently offer.”
As part of pre-production studies carried out on the new car since its unveiling in September 2009, BMW has already laid down a series of engineering parameters and carried out almost 60,000kms of testing with its hi-tech driveline. But it is quick to suggest the as-yet-unnamed two-door will undergo significant changes before reaching production maturity.
“We’re at the very beginning of development and are still establishing how to move forward, like what sort of driveline system would be suitable for all the markets we intend to sell the car,” says Draeger. “You could, for example, see the current diesel engine make way for a petrol unit.
“On top of this are new construction processes that need time to be put in place and develop. The styling will also be overhauled to make it compatible for all the various safety standards.”
The first running prototype of BMW’s future range-topping model remains true to the earlier concept car by using a combination of diesel and electric power.
At the heart of the system's mule, pictured here, is a mid-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder common-rail diesel engine producing 161bhp – essentially the same unit earmarked for the German car maker’s future front-wheel drive 115d due out in 2014.
The compact aluminium block engine, which acts as a generator in range-extender mode and is also capable of providing direct drive to the rear wheels via a six-speed double-clutch gearbox, is supported by two brushless electric motors – a 110bhp unit mounted up front providing drive to the two front wheels and a smaller 52bhp unit mounted next to the diesel engine that also acts on the rear wheels.
Linked by a complex in-house developed electronics package, all three power sources can be operated either independently or, for maximum performance, in combination, at which the 1500kg Vision EfficientDynamics develops a total of 323bhp.
Depending on the mode choosen by the driver, and the state of charge of the 10kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted down the centre line, power is placed to the road either through the front wheels, the rear wheels or via all four wheels.
Emphasising the earlier nature of development, Draeger hints the diesel engine could be supplanted by a more powerful petrol unit in a move that would make the new BMW more attractive to North American and Asian market customers.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar, he did, however, rule out the possibility of the Vision EfficientDynamics receiving a conventional engine without hybrid capability, in the process nixing rumours of a possible resurrection of the legendary M1 running a turbocharged version of BMW’s classic 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder.
Set to challenge the upcoming Audi e-tron, Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Drive and Porsche 918 RS Spyder, the production version of Vision EfficentDynamics is planned to head an extended range of advanced new alternative drive models being conceived under BMW’s heavily cloaked Project I initiative, also responsible for the all-electric Mega City Vehicle.
Setting itself an ambitious 36 months for the complete development program, BMW says the production version of the Vision EfficientDynamics will be sold directly to customers, rather than being offered through a lease scheme.
Pricing is yet to be set, but Draeger hints the first production-based, mid-engined BMW since the M1 will be pitched at more than ₤100,000. “Technology doesn’t come cheap, and this car is packed with everything we know about alternative drive systems,” he says.
As yet there is no official word on where the BMW’s new eco-supercar will be assembled. However, it is expected to be twinned with the upcoming Mega City Vehicle, with which the production version of the Vision EfficientDynamics will borrow its carbonfibre construction technology, in a dedicated production hall at BMW’s existing Leipzig factory in Germany.