The BMW group looks to 2021, the year of the autonomous flagship I Next. And in 2025, when the electrified range will increase to 25 models (all collected under the BMW I brand), of which 12 are powered exclusively by a battery. Enough to reach 20- 30% of total sales, of which a substantial part will be in China. In the middle, the crucial steps are different, summarized in the Strategy Number One plan  Next: an industrial ecosystem made of new models, powertrain and driverless driving technologies. Monaco has just taken stock of everything, even revealing a new detail: in Italy already circulate independent prototypes based on the 7 Series, the vanguard of the solutions of the next decade. Full battery. Presented by Ian Robertson, board member, and sales manager, the Elian plans start from a crystalline premise: in the roadmap, at least for now, there is no trace of hydrogen. The future, at least what can be seen, are the batteries, declined on 100% electric or plug-in hybrids with obvious hi-tech ambitions. “In 2017 – the top manager explained – we have exceeded 100 thousand battery-powered car sales (the total since 2013 exceeds 200 thousand units, ed.) It is clear that we entered the market at the right time and the numbers speak for us. By the end of the year, we will reach 130,000 points of recharge, and then we have an important role in Ionity (the big player joint venture for 350 kW recharging, ed.) “The bases are there, but it is on technology that Monaco is counting on taking the most important steps.

Fifth generation. The diagram of electrical evolution is already well defined. The current i3 represents the third generation, while the i8 Roadster (2018) and the zero-emissions versions of the Mini (2019) and X3 (2020) will represent the fourth technological “wave”. The iNext and the serial incarnation of the concept are the Vision Dynamics(produced “around 2021”, as confirmed by the bmw z3 roadster indoor covers manager Robert Irlinger) will lead to the fifth generation debut, already on the table of Adrian van Hooydonk (among other things, the House has already registered the names from iX1 to iX9) . A break with the past: starting from 2021, in fact, all the electrified BMWs will share a new architecture that is flexible and adaptable to all battery-powered propulsions, whether it be pure electric, plug-in hybrids or a 48-volt mild hybrid. . To allow the installation of different sized batteries, the base and the body will be higher than average (BMW technicians already speak of “several millimeters” more). Regarding powertrain, the new solutions provide for an integration between transmission, power electronics and engine, powered by batteries with newly designed cells: for compact and entry-level (currently called “30e”), BMW assumes 60 kWh accumulators and approximately 450 km of autonomy in the WLTP cycle; for the 40e, an intermediate level, it goes up to 90 kWh and 550 km of autonomy; for the 50e (the top of the range), it reaches 120 kWh and over 700 km of autonomy. In the case of the most performing models, the engines will be able to count on more than 200 kW (in single or double configuration, with an axle propeller) and accelerations “below 3 seconds”. Finally, the new plug-ins, credited to 100 km range in electric mode. an intermediate level, it goes up to 90 kWh and 550 km of autonomy; for the 50e (the top of the range), it reaches 120 kWh and over 700 km of autonomy. In the case of the most performing models, the engines will be able to count on more than 200 kW (in single or double configuration, with an axle propeller) and accelerations “below 3 seconds”. Finally, the new plug-ins, credited to 100 km range in electric mode. an intermediate level, it goes up to 90 kWh and 550 km of autonomy; for the 50e (the top of the range), it reaches 120 kWh and over 700 km of autonomy. In the case of the most performing models, the engines will be able to count on more than 200 kW (in single or double configuration, with an axle propeller) and accelerations “below 3 seconds”. Finally, the new plug-ins, credited to 100 km range in electric mode. The autonomous alliance grows. Driving without human input is the goal of the partnership that sees BMW ally of Intel-Mobil eye, FCA, Magna, Continental, and Delphi: “We will have to see what the rules will be, but the investments and the technological capacity are already there”, Robertson specified. “Two thousand engineers already work in Munich and other builders are about to join the project”. The strategy is based on pragmatism: BMW will proceed by steps, observing the evolution of regulations in individual countries, to arrive at proposing scalable architectures of level 3, 4 and 5 depending on the case. About FCA, talking to Quattroruote, Robertson confirmed that the group led by Sergio Marchionne will also be able to count on the new technology: “When the systems are ready, FCA will be among the Houses that can adopt them on their own models”. And who fears to have to say goodbye to driving the pleasure.

The tests in Italy. Still, on the subject of autonomous driving, Robertson has revealed that several prototypes of the BMW “usually travel the route Monaco-Genoa”, revealing, in fact, the existence of extensive tests in our country. The first Series 7 equipped with the new hardware passed the Brenner one year ago, practically on the sly, to be followed by other units almost every week. Distinguishing them from the “smooth” 7 Series is not difficult: the fleet specimens are distinguished by the abbreviation BMW Personal Co Pilot on the side and mount different cameras, even on the first upright. In addition to circulating in Europe, the prototypes travel in the US and Israel: the global fleet consists of 40 cars, destined to become 80 next year, 140 in 2019 and 185 in 2020. Among cameras, short and long-range radar, ultrasonic sensors and Lidar (five, still mechanical, but destined to make the jump towards the solid state in the iNext), on board the 7 Series there are 44 sensors. “We are developing a scalable architecture, which allows us to enable autonomous driving at level 3, 4 and 5”, explains the BMW technicians. The brain that makes decisions is called Pad, an acronym for Platform for automated driving: similar in concept to the zFAS of Audi, the computer is based on a multiprocessor architecture, able to process and “fuse” the images coming from the sensors, to interpret maps in high definition and communicate with the cloud via 5G connections. In 2021, the hardware will be on board the iNext, initially enabled for autonomous driving on the motorway:

But automatically speaking, it is also the acronym with which the BMW group has summarized its future strategy . Also from the English language, are the initials of the words Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared, referring to the car of tomorrow: autonomous, connected, electric and shared. The electric cars they are the fundamental piece but not the only one. These are therefore the four cornerstones around which the entire industry of this sector is now rotating. Except for some niche manufacturers, everyone, but everyone, is investing or allocating money and human resources in the development of tomorrow’s mobility. We are talking about several billion euros and thousands of people. We have to use the term mobility, because according to almost all the professionals in the coming years, the business model will no longer be focused on the simple production of vehicles. The builders are preparing to enter the colossal market of ancillary services related to the use of the car, in which the purchase will play an increasingly less central role. There is the talk of a river of money to which everyone tries to draw from the best positions. Consequently, unless the forecasts are not catastrophically incorrect, the public will also have to adapt to living with this transformation. Knowing more can certainly help us to better understand a near-range revolution that led to the transition from equestrian to horsepower much more than a century ago. The BMW Technology Workshop, an informational path with the press that the Italian branch of the German company has held in these days at the San Donato Milanese headquarters, is part of this perspective.

The electric strategy of the BMW group

When we speak of electrification of the automobile we mean the passage to a propulsion partially or totally entrusted to one or more electric motors. In the first case, we have a hybrid car, in the second a pure electric vehicle. There are also different types within these two main categories: micro-hybrid (mild hybrid), hybrid self-compensating (full hybrid), plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The thermal engines that make up the heart of the hybrid system can be petrol or diesel, turbocharged or aspirated, depending on the choices of each manufacturer. Also on the side of electric cars, there are at least two categories: battery (BEV) or fuel cells with hydrogen as the energy carrier (FCEV). As for the BMW group, we are talking about plug-in hybrid cars with turbocharged petrol engines and battery electric cars. Research in the field of fuel cells continues, although in this case, the time horizons are long-term.

BMW is certainly not the latest in terms of vehicle electrification. In fact, it was necessary to go back to 2008 to find the Mini E. Then came the BMW i3, then the hybrid supercars i8 and i8 Roadsters, and finally the hybrid Mini Cooper SE Countryman All4, passing through some hybrid versions in the sedan and SUV range. We also add the BMW C Evolution electric scooter in the field of two wheels. The group’s strategy for 2025 foresees the launch of 25 new electrified models, 12 of which BEV. The first car to arrive, in 2019, will be the electric Mini. In 2020 it will be the turn of the iX3, a medium-large electric SUV with 400 km of autonomy. In 2021 it will touch the iNext, a car with bodywork yet to be defined but an electric powertrain capable of a range of 700 km and automatic driving level 3. In the following years we will see the launch of the i4, a large coupé body and 600 km of autonomy. It is important to underline that the Bavarian group will also deal directly with the development and production of batteries, including cells. Great importance towards cost containment will take the adoption of a unique and flexible architecture, suitable to accommodate all forms of food. In addition, the electric powertrains will be grouped in a single block, more compact, light and economical.

A ride on the BMW i3s

During the workshop we were able to tour the BMW i3s, in the version renewed at the end of 2017. This car is currently the most popular compact electric premium in the world, on the market since 2014. It is also the only electric car to have of an optional range extender. It is a small petrol engine that recharges the battery when it is running out. It is not connected to the traction, entrusted exclusively to the electric motor. A very smart solution to avoid literally staying suddenly on foot. Because, in a scenario where charging stations are still very scarce in many countries, autonomy anxiety is not a neurosis but a concern based on a real and probable risk.

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