If Alanis Morissette were into EVs, she would probably ask us to write this article as part 2 of one of her hits. What BMW developed is the definition of “ironic” when it concerns electrification. While people still say range anxiety hinders EV adoption, the German company developed an electric device that actually increases range. BMW decided to call it the “Electrified Wingsuit.”
The company created this electric range extender with the help of Peter Salzmann, an Austrian skydiving instructor. He already had the idea of expanding the distances he could cover with the wingsuit and had the help of BMW i and Designworks – a BMW Group design subsidiary – to do that.
According to the release, the equipment is being developed for the last three years. Salzmann has been actively involved in the whole process. At first, the electric impellers were placed in his back and were much larger. He immediately felt that it would be too heavy and a limitation to his movements, which would be dangerous during skydiving.
Aerodynamic experts said the impellers would be much more efficiently placed in the chest of Salzmann. They also became a lot smaller, which caused an immediate loss of 40 percent of output, but it was the right thing to do.
The smaller propeller size – 13 cm, or around 5 inches – was compensated with an amazing speed of around 25,000 rpm. Each of the two motors of the fly unit delivers 7.5 kW (10 hp), and a 50V battery delivers energy to them for around 5 minutes.
Made of carbon fiber and aluminum, the whole fly unit weighs 12 kg (26 lb). Its design was refined at Aerolab – BMW’s horizontal wind tunnel – and in a wind tunnel in Sweden.
When the time for the maiden flight came, Salzmann planned to do that in South Korea, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the plans, and it was eventually set for Austria, more precisely at the Drei Brüder peaks in the Hohe Tauern mountain range in the Alps.
Salzmann jumped with two other skydivers that did not have the fly unit. It is not clear what their purpose was, but it was very likely they intended to compare the benefits the fly unit could offer to a regular dive.
All three jumped from a helicopter at a 3,000-meters (9,843-ft) altitude and were in formation until Salzmann activated the fly unit. He flew across the peak of Drei Brüder and eventually made a curve to meet his fellow skydivers so that they could open their parachutes and land together.
A wingsuit skydiver can experience speeds of up to 100 km/h, but the Electrified Wingsuit would have made Salzmann reach 300 km/h (186 mph) soon after activation.
BMW seized the opportunity to promote the BMW iX3 and tried to set parallels between the Electric Wingsuit and the car, but that is not relevant to this savory irony of electric motors improving any range. It happens every single day with hybrid and plug-in vehicles, but not in the air and not at 300 km/h. Isn’t it ironic?