BMW Research & Development Boss Discusses Electric Cars

MAY 13 2015 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 23

BMW i3 Charging

BMW i3 Charging

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Recently, Automotive News sat down with Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s new research and development boss.

Much of the interview focuses on ICE BMWs, but there are a few questions asked that relate to electric cars.

Q: What will BMW’s powertrain mix look like in 2021 once the EU’s tougher emission rules take full effect?

A: Our new gasoline and diesel units are part of a modular family so we can easily adjust output to market and customer requirements. Europeans like diesels and are not particularly keen on alternative drivetrains. Diesel will continue to play a dominant role in Europe as one of the enablers to achieve lower CO2 emissions. Some markets, such as the Netherlands and Norway, have done a good job encouraging electrification, but I don’t see any significant momentum boosting electrified vehicles Europewide.

Q: As an engineer, what is the best technical solution to reduce CO2?

A: Maintaining BMW’s sheer driving pleasure is key because our cars are bought by customers not regulators. When we created the i subbrand we aimed to defy the common perception that electrified powertrains were unemotional. That’s why the i8 [performance coupe] was picked to be our first plug-in hybrid before offering this type of powertrain on the X5, 3 series and 2 series. Because responsiveness and directness are typical for BMW, we made sure our electric drivetrains could achieve this. The difficulty at the moment is battery power density. I personally don’t see a 7 series as a pure battery-powered vehicle. Although some other companies do models like that, I think electric powertrains need more battery power density before they are ready for larger cars. When you have 500 kilograms of batteries in a car, you feel them. Weight for me is a key factor.

Q: Will BMW offer plug-in diesels?

A: When we look at the overall volumes of plug-ins worldwide, 95 percent are sold in gasoline markets. So at the moment it really doesn’t make sense to offer a diesel plug-in to a European customer who is not prepared to pay thousands of euros for such a solution.

He seems a bit hesitant to the idea of battery electrics, but open to plug-in hybrids.

Source: Automotive News

Categories: BMW

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23 Comments on "BMW Research & Development Boss Discusses Electric Cars"

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Well, hybrids are certainly better than nothing. A 330e would be cool though. 330e= 3 series 300 horse power electric

“Batteries need to be more power dense”

What total BS. Tesla has 691 hp in a 7 sized sedan, and Tesla’s battery is not even designed for max power. Instead it is designed for max range, which results in a relatively low power battery.

BMW execs do not even understand what the heck they are talking about!

GSP

Tesla has poor sales in Germany, where an $80,000 sedan is expected to go on the Autobahn. German sales are behind smaller countries.

Batteries need to be power-dense for hybrids, but energy-dense for BEVs. This has been known for two decades now. Hence, Froehlich stated the obvious in the context of this hybrid discussion. You know, the German discussion with Automotive News Europe, where diesel fuel is subsidized but electricity is 30c/kWh.

It is YOU who do not even understand what the heck they are talking about.

Well, I’m reasonably sure that BMW sells cars outside of Germany. In fact they probably sells MOST of their cars outside of Germany, thus the Autobahn argument is just for a niche.

He said he did not see a 7-series as a pure battery powered vehicle. That doesn’t sound like a hybrid discussion to me.

You understand that hybrids require power density and EVs require energy density, but this BMW exec clearly does not understand this basic principle.

GSP

Ha. Exactly. We can’t or won’t do something so no one can. Old school arrogance vrs. new school innovation.

The BMW new research and development boss stating “Europeans like diesels” is just mind boggling! Did he read the OMS report?

The guy is nothing about new and all about the past.

His statement “When you have 500 kilograms of batteries in a car, you feel the” is also symptomatic that this guy is not up to taking the means it takes to achieve results. Who care the weight when your wheels instead of your legs are carrying it? It is like complaining that house weight too much, non sense. Only the fossil CO2/km counts and for a 2 ton ev it can be zero what is never the case of a 1 ton diesel.

He also said “Maintaining BMW’s sheer driving pleasure is key”. Adding 500kg of batteries absolutely affects the dynamics of a car.

I’m guessing you’ve never driven a BMW? Also, based on the name “Prius Maniac” I assume that you don’t care much about driving dynamics in the first place. The Prius is about as exciting to drive as a Lazy Boy.

@Brian And you drive a….Leaf? Your point is?

Actually, I’m not sure what your point is. Yes, I drive a Leaf. I do so because it was the only BEV available that I could afford in 2012. That does not negate the fact that I appreciate a car that drives well. Case in point – my previous car was a Honda S2000. My other current car is a Honda Insight which, IMHO, drives much better than a Toyota Prius, while still delivering close to the same gas mileage.

So again, my point is that BMW’s customers have an expectation of how the car will drive. Here in the US, they market themselves as “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. So it is under that model that Mr. Froehlich is speaking. 0-60 acceleration is only part of the experience. I am confident that a Model S P85D does not offer the same driving experience as a BMW 7-series. Looking only at 0-60 times is reminiscent of the muscle cars of the 70s. Sure, they were incredibly fast in a straight line, but all of that extra weight is much harder to turn.

Brian, BMW 7-series only sells about 10,000 units a year in the US. While I do agree that a bmw 7 series P85D probably doesn’t make sense, I’m sure those engineers could get the 7-series to perform well, but the S is already out. All it would do is cost bmw and tesla money.

BMW adding phevs satisfies their dealership model. THe i series may add longer run electrics, but I doubt they will directly target tesla.

You can get even more dynamic fun in a Ferrari or a Porsche, but that is not the point, what is is saying is basically that a Model S is not able to handel as well as a BMW which is false. Weight doesn’t make the dynamics it is KW/Kg that mater and center of gravity position. On those two accounts the Model S (or a BMW ev alike) wins. Since he tells lies that clearly goes against ev it can not be accepted as truth.

“Weight doesn’t make the dynamics it is KW/Kg that mater and center of gravity ”

Hmm.. NO, both matters. Lower COG helps, but extra weight is still extra mass to move around. Extra mass for a given COG is still bad.

The mass is the denominator in the KW/Kg ratio, so it is taken into account, but it is the ratio result that determine the dynamics. This can be illustrated by a bicycle, which is light when considering the overall mass with driver of 75 Kg but the power is only 0,5 KW, so the ratio is 0,0067. If you would apply that ratio to the 2239 Kg of the Model S P85D you would only have 15 KW. But since the car as 515 KW it has a much better ratio of 0,23 and therefore a way better dynamics. Its large wheels and unique low center of gravity makes it excellent in turns as well. By the way the car also has one of the lowest lateral wind sensitivity exactly thanks to its mass. So mass is grey not black.
If we consider the BMW 7 series with the V12, it has a power of 400 KW and a mass of 2105 Kg so its ratio is 0,19 and has therefore lower dynamics than the Model S.

Neither of you quite have it right.

Handling is not just about lighter weight. CoG is one factor, but the rest is about the ratio of traction to moment of inertia. That determines how responsive a car is when changing directions.

You can increase traction with sticky tires and also with weight, but weight towards the outside of a car will increase moment of inertia superlinearly, i.e. decrease that key ratio. Engine weight, door/trunk/bumper weight, wheel weight are all bad for handling. However, weight in the middle of the car (e.g. the drivetrain tunnel) can improve handling. It pushes the wheels down for more grip, but only slightly increases moment of inertia.

The Model S has weight rather spread out. The Fisker Karma was said to handle quite a bit better, but of course it had many other flaws.

The reason Europeans “like” diesels is because Europe taxes diesel at a lower rate than gasoline. Thus, what Europeans really “like” is cheap fuel. He should check how cheap electricity is compared to gas/diesel.

Yes. Even at $0.30/kWh it is much less expensive than Diesel fuel.

GSP

The message is quite clear, and quite consistent with other manufacturers at this time. Like it or not, mass electrification for the foreseeable future is all about hybrids, with or without modest plug-in capabilities.

He is absolutely right that efficiency and performance is all about light weight. That is demonstrated regularly in Europe and Japan where lightweight cars routinely get 60+ mpg and demonstrate excellent handling characteristics.

For most manufacturers, hybrids are a balanced approach that improves efficiency by taking the inefficient peaks and valleys off the ICE power curve, whilst keeping vehicle weight reasonable. Even GM recognizes this is the case – Lets be honest, the Voltec2 investment was more about hybrids like the Malibu than the Volt.

BEV enthusiasts, myself included, aren’t going to like it, but until battery evolution allows affordable cars that are more than just short range local transportation appliances, that is the way it is.

Looking forward, we will have to see whether the Bolt, Model 3 and others are capable of delivering enough aspirational characteristics to change the prevailing thinking.

When you decide on the message then yes the message is quite clear. When you embark on a course of action you certainly aren’t going to say you were wrong.
Electrification of the worlds vehicular fleet is a process and it is happening. That message is quite clear it is just not clearly seen as some do not see clearly.

I think you are being too harsh… BMW has invested in light weight technologies, electrification, and even unique focused branding for electrification. However he is reflecting the realities of building desirable cars in volume at the right price to remain in business, which today translates into hybrids, some with modest plug-in capabilities, and also some super high mileage light weight diesel cars.

It is inappropriate to suggest he is living in the past simply because he telling it like it is.

BMW is not making a true effort. What they do is greenwhashing their main production by the image of the i3 and i8 that are exactly placed in segments where they don’t disturb their main production cars like the 3 and 5 series. Only when Tesla Model 3 start to eat their lunch will they really act and put a real ev serie 3 on the market but as late as they possibly can. Their tech talk is false, they just look to retard ev as much as possible to protect their existing business. The weird i3 doors with excessively costly composite is just confirming they don’t want normal sedan cars to be accessible as ev by the people. They want to continue the force feeding of the European gooses with diesels sended trough their throats.

Way off base and far too paranoid…

Driving at least 2 hours at a time at (well) over 200kmh will never be the MS’ long suit. In the top price bracket, that has been effectively ‘job 1’ for many decades – a logical assumption for the buyer.

Not easy to spell out in sound-bite Q&A, but simply, he cannot Imagine a time when a pure BEV will fill that role.