Exclusive: BMW Already Knows What It Wants From The Electric M3

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BMW M CEO Frank van Meel has outlined what's needed to take the M car into the electric era.

The BMW M3 will be going electric for the next generation. But while we're only expecting that to arrive around 2030, BMW bosses and engineers already know what an electric M3 needs to be if it's going to be a success.

Speaking to the media at an event in South Africa earlier this year, BMW M CEO Frank van Meel outlined the basics of what the M3 - the quintessential M car - has to stand for.

"So the goal is we're not going to make a car that is not better than the current one. And it has to drive like an M," says van Meel.

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The basic premise is simple for van Meel and his team: to keep evolving an iconic nameplate. "I think the goal is quite clear; we just need to continue the M3 story, for instance."

If that sounds like a cop-out, it isn't. Van Meel confirmed that the M3 will be going electric and that the company has its work cut out for it. "So the next M3, even if it will be electric, has to be better than the current one, and the current one is currently leading the pack," he explains. "So it's quite a challenge to be better than that one. But that is the challenge.

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"So this sounds quite simple - my head of engineering would now kill me because I'd say you know what it takes to make that happen - but that's why we also decided to go with a four-motor system," explains van Meel of the M electric prototype that BMW revealed earlier this year, teasing a CGI-simulated four-wheel burnout/standing donut. That same 1,340-horsepower prototype has been gearing up for winter testing recently, and van Meel outlined some of what the four-motor system will enable it to achieve.

"[The four-motor powertrain] really gives you a lot of potential in the car, also on track for recuperating, because you can take back energy, going up to full braking, without having to use the brake." This is particularly important on the track where energy is depleted rapidly, and van Meel says the setup "can also save energy on the track to be able to raise more runs."

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At the same event, van Meel also differentiated between high-performance M cars and M Performance derivatives, stating that full M cars, like the M3, are "developed on the track for the track."

However, in such scenarios, there's more to the success of an electric M car than just the motors and the regenerative braking, which van Meel quickly points out. "There's a lot of things in the background, of course, when you're talking about batteries, chemistry, and everything," he explained.

To that end, BMW is working on next-gen battery technology that will cope with the requirements of an electric M car. Gen 6 battery tech is currently under development at the BMW Battery Cell Centre of Excellence in Munich, promising a 30% greater driving range, a 30% reduction in charging time, and more affordable and sustainable production.

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These cylindrical cells have a 46-millimeter diameter - like Tesla's 4680 cells - and are the key to the next generation of BMW EVs. But BMW is also working on solid-state batteries and has a range of avenues open for development.

The automaker has invested in battery startup Our Next Energy (ONE), which managed to drive a Tesla Model S for more than 750 miles with its proprietary technology at the start of this year.

The possibilities may not quite be endless, but BMW has a firm goal in mind. An electric M can't be worse than what came before, as van Meel made clear: "We're working on that with the simple goal of being better than the current model and being a typical M3."

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