Hi-tech powertrain could feature in next-gen Minis and FWD BMWs

BMW has unveiled a new hydrogen hybrid drivetrain that could be used by the next-generation Mini and the front-wheel-drive BMWs planned for 2014.

The system combines a conventional front-drive powertrain along with a hydrogen fuel cell, electricity-storing supercapacitors and an electrically driven rear axle.

See the artist's rendering showing the BMW tech

BMW engineers have already built functioning prototypes based on 1-series hatchbacks converted to front-wheel drive.

Company engineers say the “fuel cell hybrid technology” is designed to allow a vehicle to travel emissions-free in city centres, a feat beyond the ability of regular petrol-electric hybrids.

This drivetrain will fit into today’s Mini Clubman, making it likely that it could become an option for the front-wheel-drive BMW and Mini models that are at least four metres long.

The fuel-cell hybrid has not yet been given the green light by BMW bosses, however, and the firm has to be certain that sufficient sales would be generated to ensure financial viability.

It also needs to decide whether hydrogen fuel pumps will become available in most large cities.

The system works by having two independent methods of driving the car. In the prototype, a conventional transverse Mini drivetrain powers the front wheels. Mounted behind the engine is the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), a slim fuel cell that develops just 5kW.

The electricity generated by the APU is supplied to the capacitors, which are mounted in the centre tunnel. They drive the 82kW electric motor on the rear axle.

When in electric mode the car is driven by the rear wheels. When in petrol mode the car is driven by the front wheels. The two powerplants can work together, though, to deliver short bursts of high acceleration.

BMW says that it can see a future when certain areas of city centres will demand vehicles that have zero local CO2 emissions and zero levels of pollutants.

Hilton Holloway

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Comments
8

12 April 2010

Filling your car with petrol and then with hydrogen aswell?, not really making a saving are we, personally i think it's over engineered

12 April 2010

Highly improbable given the Minis relatively low volumes and modest profit margins. This might work on a platform selling a million units a year and even then only when Hydrogen become widely available and acceptable. There are serious issues with hydrogen propulsion, as the gas is so explosive (see the Hindenberg disaster) - I wonder how heavy the car would need to be in order for the fuel tank to survive a crash test....

12 April 2010

And it's not even that, the amount of energy needed to produce the hydrogen doesn't even make it carbon neutral and all this about cars going battery or hydrogen powered, the amount of power output needed to equal petrol is stupidly high, you'll need 10x the amount of batteries to equal petrol or a massive hydrogen tank. Just not logical

12 April 2010

[quote comment8]This might work on a platform selling a million units a year [/quote] That's (almost) the idea. By 2014 BMW is going to build its own front-drive cars and the Mini range will also be extended. BMW have said they expect to build 600-800k cars on the new front-drive platform per year.

12 April 2010

[quote comment8]Highly improbable given the Minis relatively low volumes and modest profit margins. This might work on a platform selling a million units a year[/quote]

- which is what BMW is aiming for, no? You're forgetting that the 1-series will go FWD and share with MINI, which puts all the MINI variants and FWD 1-series offshoot variants heading for the near 1 million p.a. mark. Best to engage brain before comment8ing.

A fuel cell rated at only 5 kW will only require a relatively small amount of hydrogen and hence fuel tank.

It's Hindenburg, by the way.

12 April 2010

[quote Rayman89]the amount of energy needed to produce the hydrogen doesn't even make it carbon neutral[/quote] All the German companies I've talked to think that wind turbines sited at the coast should be used to 'crack' sea water into hydrogen. They see it as the best way of utilising an inconsistent form of renewable energy as well as the best way to make hydrogen.

12 April 2010

Personally I don't see hydrogen as a way forward, like i mentioned before, to have the same level of performance as petrol, you will need a shit load of hydrogen. I think companies should be more focused on biofuels really and please don't tell me that will affect the food supply of the world when scientists are complaining we're getting obese. Clearly theres plenty of food and enough space to grow ethonal and methonal

12 April 2010

[quote Rayman89]Personally I don't see hydrogen as a way forward, like i mentioned before, to have the same level of performance as petrol, you will need a *** load of hydrogen. I think companies should be more focused on biofuels really and please don't tell me that will affect the food supply of the world when scientists are complaining we're getting obese. Clearly theres plenty of food and enough space to grow ethonal and methonal[/quote]

All new technologies need to start off somewhere. If we had to stop working on the computer, because no one will build an entire room in his house to do maths in, we would have never had the pc.

No, I really think that we should look at each and every alternative method, and see it as the pc of the future.

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