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BMW M's Serious Problem With All-Electric Vehicles

M Performance

Will it ever build one?

The just-unveiled BMW M Next is a 600-hp plug-in hybrid preview of what will hopefully happen "next,” at least in regards to the i8. It’s not just a clever name. The fact that the concept is a PHEV is interesting for a few reasons, mainly that automakers are racing to launch all-electric vehicles and concepts to prove their eco-friendliness. While that’s commendable, you have to ask why BMW’s high-performance M division isn't jumping into the fight. Well, apparently, it will, one day, but not just yet.

Speaking with Roadshow, BMW’s head of engineering, Klaus Frohlich, said that "Beyond 2025, there will be possible M BEVs.” But instead of a battery electric vehicle arriving within the next few years, "a power PHEV is next for M.”

Put it like this: Frohlich stated that an M-branded PHEV would tip the scales between 3,500 and 3,800 pounds, and will produce 600 hp. To compare, today’s M5 weighs 4,370 pounds and also has 600 hp. "Weight is key,” Frohlich emphasized. Given today’s technology, a fully electrified BMW M car would simply weigh too much.

BMW also just revealed its all-electric 5 Series prototype, affectionately known as "Lucy.” It currently makes an impressive 720 hp and 848 lb-ft of torque, which is greater output than an M5, but it also weighs a hefty 5,300 pounds. Battery technology has some catching up to do. "M is not about longitudinal acceleration only,” Frohlich said.

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The lighter the car weighs, the better it’ll handle, and BMW M is all about outstanding handling. It all boils down to achieving a proper power-to-weight ratio. Don’t expect the i8’s successor to be the massive powertrain leap forward we predicted it might be earlier. There’s no doubt BMW’s PHEV technology has made huge advancements over the past few years. Something also tells us BMW M is listening closely to its customers. They want a fun-driving machine before high output ratings. And the customer is always right.