Currently reading: Radical BMW research vehicle revealed in patent images
Aerodynamic hybrid BMW research vehicle could point towards future models from the firm's i brand
2 mins read
11 November 2015

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.


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11 November 2015
Is it a bit odd that the i-3 and i8 seem to have been the beginning and end of the BMW electric push? Does anyone have insider knowledge? As far as I can see they launched both of them at about the same time and have done nothing since. I don't see many of them even in London so assume they are not exactly setting the sales line on fire but they are both really interesting products. I'd have expected an i-3 update by now. Tesla seem to bring a refresh out every month. Surely in 2 years BMW must have learned a lot from customer feedback? And hasn't technology advanced since the design was frozen 4 years back?
All seems a bit odd to me.

11 November 2015
that BMW have released a new battery for the i3! I'm obviously more in touch with BMW than I thought!
On a totally different but slightly related subject: I'm just watching the Formula E race from last weekend. Look, I love technology and as a research laboratory FE must be great. But wow, as a spectacle it makes paint drying look fantastic. Cars are soooooo slow! Everyone is either breaking down or crashing. It's basically totally crap. Honestly everyone is crashing. Total rubbish. How on earth these guys who have driven proper cars can possibly want to get involved in this junk is beyond me. OK they are getting paid but God it's awful. I thought the worst thing anyone could race would be a BTCC car (not the racing itself which is fab) but these things are beyond awful. Two cars for each race!!

11 November 2015
It's been out for just about 2 years so updates/face lifts wouldn't be expected for at least another year in line with most car manuafactures, more so with BMW as they have quite long update cycles. The I8 has been out for less than a year and half so don't expect an update too soon, just as well as I believe there was a waiting list for this one. This new concept vehicle shows which way BMW is heading, electric.

11 November 2015
Maybe it's a Brighton thing, or maybe it's down to how much effort individual dealers put into selling electric vehicles? Either way, I'd say that there are quite a few i3s on the road here - I'm guessing about half as many as there are Leafs, which have been around for longer. Maybe if sales are strong, there is no need for regular updates?

11 November 2015
I'd imagine given the pretty radical tech involved, the updates will be under the skin in cost reduction and improving reliability, rather than anything the consumer could see. See a fair few i3's in London.

12 November 2015
One of the problems with Tesla (I think) is that they make too many changes, making their offering confusing. I had a drive of one a year ago - the prices had all changed the day before (and the salesman knew nothing about that at all - I only discovered it when I checked the website on getting home) and they changed again a couple of days later. And they have done another fairly major change since.

BMW have gone for a bit more stability (though when the i3 year came out I was put off by the confusing plethora of charging options at different monthly prices) - there have been a few equipment tweaks here and there. I am probably about to get one, a range extender, and am just doing the final research on a home charger and spec of car to buy. I think there will be an i5 coming out in the next year or two but I haven't seen anything concrete on what that will be like

I was in the BMW i pop up store in the Trafford centre yesterday (there until 22 Nov) and I had to laugh at a couple of young guys who commented that the i8 was rubbish and not worth considering as when you tapped the nose with your finger it sounded plasticky...

12 November 2015
Haha - around there they might be footballers who could afford to buy one a week!

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