Next-generation BMW M models could switch to plug-in hybrid power to meet stringent emissions standards coming into force in Europe – but the company insists petrol-electric tech will be exclusive to larger models, if it is adopted at all.
The head of BMW M Division, Markus Flasch, has told Australian media at the recent M Festival that it has hybrid power ‘on standby’ ready to use but there are still no firm plans – and no rush – to introduce electrification.
“I can assure you we’re working on electrification,” Mr Flasch says. “I’ve driven petrol-electric vehicles from the M team. I’ve driven plug-in hybrids from the M team. It’s there. But I cannot disclose data. I cannot disclose a (production) start date. But we’re working on it. It’s on the shelf.”
“The models that will see electrification won’t be the pure, the core, the most distilled projects such as the M2, 3 and 4. If we do something that will bring weight it’s very likely to be to a heavier, larger car. The X5 M today is a heavy and large car.”
Opting for the plug-in petrol-electric-hybrid route seems the foregone conclusion as BMW looks at committing to PHEV technology as a long-term solution rather than bridging application en route to full electrification on a large scale with mainstream model lines.
Mr Flasch stresses that, when is comes to commercialising M electrification – be it hybrid or full EV – there’s more concern about diluting the brand in customers’ eyes than there is overcoming technical challenges of adopting such technologies.
“It’s not about being the first with any particular technology. We have to be the best (but) we believe in the power of choice. I have very direct dialogue with customers… who are worried that we might dilute the power of those products today in order to be the first in new technology," he said.
“I’m not producing cars for demonstrators, for people who don’t buy them. I’m producing cars for our customers and (they have) a very, very clear opinion of what they want to see.
"They will only buy the successor model if it’s better than the predecessor model, so if a new technology doesn’t qualify itself as better than its predecessor then it’s not going to happen.
“Our customers aren’t bragging about having the latest and the greatest but they know if they have an M badge on their car it’s the best car when it comes to performance. We need to keep up this promise.”
Those technical challenges? By measure of the 2020 X5 M and X6 M models, any future hybridisation would surely have to surpass 375kW and 600Nm in output and 4.1-second 0-400m performance benchmarks afforded by these SUVs’ bi-turbo petrol V8s.
“We have to find ways to take out weight to afford the additional technology,” Flasch explains. “And there’s a lot going on the chassis side and the tyre side to compensate but the rules of physics always apply. There’s no simple answer (to these challenges).”