There’s BMW M for performance, and BMW i for hybrids and electric cars. But there could soon be an M model with hybrid power.
BMW M head of product development, Carston Pries, spoke with Australian media at the launch of the 2016 BMW M2 Coupe in the US, where he suggested that meeting stricter emissions regulations in the future could force the company’s hand in what means it uses to create its trademark high-performance models.
Pries suggested that electrification, or hybridisation, of the company’s existing drivetrains could be a solution.
“To meet emissions regulations, which are getting stricter and stricter around the world – even though sometimes you think you have reached the very top end of what you think is possible, all of a sudden from one model generation to another you find out there’s even a new solution that you can apply to meet the emissions regulations,” Pries said.
When asked if adding electrification to the equation could improve emissions on the existing range of engines, Pries made it clear that weight is the only bad bi-product.
“It could be, if we overcome the side effects that go with it,” he said.
“You look at all the efforts we make to bring the weight down of all our cars in order to get the right power-to-weight ratio, it has never been our philosophy just to shift huge mass with the required number of horses,” he said.
Hybrid models are heavier than their conventional counterparts due to additional electrical components including motors, wiring, batteries and other ancillaries.
“We would rather a car that is light… and a certain amount of power that gives you a certain performance figure,” Pries suggested.
“As electrification becomes more important in the future then we have to see how we can compensate the additional weight that all these systems tend to bring into the car,” he said.
When asked if BMW has a solution for that conundrum – in other words, is there a breakthrough in lightweight battery technology on its way? – Pries said “probably not yet”.
However, he did give away a hint that the first electrified M model is likely to be one that can carry the weight without as much of a detriment to its performance as a smaller model would feel.
“It will be interesting to see which segment such systems come into play. As you can see from our competition – if you do it in, let’s say, the traditional two-door, sports car segment, then you have to make a huge effort to compensate for the additional weight with lightweight materials, which are normally very costly,” he said.
“Maybe a bigger car may make more sense to use such technology, where the absolute weight is not as important as it is in the segments [that have 1500 kilograms as some kind of barrier]. That’s where you really start feeling the difference.”
There is a new BMW M5 performance model due in 2017 or 2018… perhaps that could be the first to debut such technology. We’ll have to wait and see. Who knows, maybe it'll be called the MI-5!