A secret new high-tech BMW prototype has been unveiled precipitately in a series of patent register images, providing clues to developments future models from the German car maker's fledgling i brand are likely to adopt.
The leaked images, lodged by BMW officials at the Shanghai patent register office in China earlier this year, reveal a new wind-cheating plug-in petrol-electric hybrid research vehicle that was constructed at BMW’s R&D centre in Munich, Germany, and has recently pressed into a testing program.
Described by an insider with knowledge of BMW’s R&D activities as answer to the Volkswagen XL1, the secret four-seat prototype draws heavily on the company’s extensive experience in carbonfibre-reinforced plastic construction, using the lightweight material for its primary structure, outer panels, various interior elements and rims.
Nothing is official, although sources involved in BMW’s research activities suggest the new car hits the scales at less than 1150kg, making it 135kg lighter than the existing i3 but 355kg heavier than the XL1.
Along with efforts to reduce weight, BMW engineers have also honed the aerodynamic properties of the new car, which Autocar first reported about back in July, with the compact hatchback having a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.18. By comparison, the two-seat XL1’s drag coefficient is 0.19.
Helping it to achieve the impressive aero figure is an exterior that goes without traditional door mirrors. In their place are video cameras, which are used to capture images that appear within a monitor mounted in the place of the traditional rear-view mirror.
Depicted as a practical car for everyday use, the prototype offers seating for up to four, along with what Autocar has been told is a useful boot, the capacity of which is put at 348 litres – or almost three times the XL1’s 120 litres.
Power for the research vehicle comes via a front-mounted turbocharged 1.0-litre twin-cylinder petrol engine based on the modular architecture of the company’s larger three, four and six-cylinder units, in combination with an electric motor sited at the rear.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a battery that is described as using a newly developed chemical process for faster charging, greater energy density and a longer zero-emissions range.
The BMW is claimed to hit 62mph from rest in less than seven seconds, hit a top speed of 112mph and return a remarkable 706mpg on the combined fuel cycle, giving it average CO2 emissions of less than 10g/km.