BMW is getting ready to embark on a radical engineering and technology drive which could see all future models from the 3-series upwards, including the Rolls-Royce range, become all-wheel-drive range-extender electric cars.
This ground-up rethink for BMW is based both on the way that the body is constructed and the make-up of the powertrain. The days of welded steel bodies and engines that drive the rear wheels via conventional transmissions are set to be consigned to history, according to the latest thinking by BMW’s advanced engineering department.
In will come bodies made from a mix of steel, aluminium and composites and powertrains that use electric motors as the primary drive source, backed up by a large battery pack and a fundamentally rethought internal combustion engine family that spends much of its time acting as a generator and running at peak efficiency.
These new cars will also be designed to incorporate a much more fundamental exploitation of aerodynamics, because reducing air and rolling resistance at speed to a minimum will be essential.
Connected technology will use 3D sat-nav to allow the car to anticipate hills and use downhill coasting to reduce energy use and recharge its batteries. Suspension that can drop to a low ride height for motorway travel is also on the menu, along with active aerodynamics that will enable all of the front air intakes to close up at motorway speeds.
The big push behind this potentially game-changing rethink of the car is the looming EU fuel consumption regulations. Car makers have to hit a fleet average CO2 output of 95g/km, with a range of between 85g/km and 110g/km for the various brands.