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2017 Frankfurt Motor Show: BMW’s electrification to extend to M cars

By Nathan Ponchard, 13 Sep 2017 Events

BMW’s electrification to extend to M cars

M cars to become plug-in hybrids when tech is light and durable enough

We’re likely still a generation away, but when battery technology is up to speed, some BMW M cars will be too, thanks to plug-in hybrid kick.

How big, you ask? Try a whole engine’s worth of instantaneous oomph.

Former chief engineer, and now member of the BMW board, Klaus Frohlich, stressed the importance of any M car’s exalted positioning in the BMW line-up, as well as the continued importance of the internal combustion engine.

“In Australia, I assume you will have petrol engines for a very, very long time … [and] we’ll have M cars [for a] very, very long [time], and they will be quite exciting, I can tell you.”

“But, for example, what we’re working on would perfectly fit for an M car – to have boost and recuperation. To have [an] e-motor which gives this instantaneous boost – 100kW extra, or 150kW extra – but we have to be very careful to achieve it with as less weight as possible. That the car still performs on the Nurburgring like we’re used to.”

A key to achieving this feat is the extremely compact, high-performance battery technology that will debut in the production version of BMW’s ‘i Vision Dynamics’ four-door Frankfurt Show concept in 2021. “We will have battery-electric vehicles [that] will be high-performance cars, [and] they will be the ‘i’ brand. But on the M cars I’m more focusing to add [what] I call a power PF. Some boost on combustion engines for the M cars”.

Even though Frohlich claims that BMW performance cars will retain some form of petrol diet “for a very long time”, he’s adamant that plug-in hybrid makes a lot of sense for the M brand, with a caveat.

“In an M car, we have very stringent requirements. It has to survive several laps on the Nurburgring without reducing performance, without reducing brake performance, and so on and so forth.”

However, it won’t be until electrical systems – “more than 48-volt … if you want to have that 150kW boost” – and the cell chemistry of very lightweight, very compact batteries begin to marry with BMW’s M ethos that we’ll see a plug-in-hybrid on the showroom floor. “I need a very advanced battery for the M cars”, says Frohlich. “[And] it will take until ’21 until we have the e-motor which is very compact because it has to fit into the package.”

As for the arrival of all-wheel drive in the latest M5, is that a portent to offering a similar drive system in the next-generation M3/M4? Frohlich doesn’t think so, though BMW is yet to rule it out … providing the car doesn’t start to get fat.

“We made the [new] M5 [weigh] less than its predecessor and included AWD, [so] then it’s fine. I hate cars that are becoming heavy. The M3/M4 is an icon. It has to be very pure … but I will not exclude [AWD] yet. I think [ultimately] the customer will decide. We are flexible you know because the base cars always have that [AWD capability built-in].”