The division's CEO has some ideas on how to make EVs fun.
The future of the automotive industry is electric, or at least it seems that way. Germany and some other European nations are fighting legislation to end combustion by 2035, but if an EV-only society is truly unavoidable, automakers like BMW are trying their best to ensure that the electric experience will feel very similar to that of traditional offerings. We already know of the many performance benefits that an EV can have and we've seen some of Germany's quickest sports cars get humiliated by silent motoring, but all-out performance does not an enthusiast car make. Us gearheads require more, particularly when it comes to engagement, and BMW M CEO Frank van Meel agrees. Fortunately, is team is already looking to find ways to mimic more than just the power of a conventional car.
Speaking at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend, van Meel acknowledged the issues of enthusiast-focused EVs:
"If you can go from 0-300 kph [186 mph] with one gear and no sound, how will you know how fast you're going when you turn? In racing, you judge your speed by hearing the revs and knowing what gear you're in. You need that feedback, and we need to replicate it. We need to find a solution for this in racing and then drip-feed it down to our road cars. It doesn't necessarily need to be the same experience as what we have today, but we do need a solution. We don't have them yet. This is why we have the prototype racing concept: it's a commitment to finding these answers."
So how will BMW M figure this stuff out?
The BMW i4 is already pretty good to drive, but it's not as engaging as something with gears. This is where BMW's LMDh prototype comes in. With a V8 hybrid drivetrain, it's not a full EV. However, van Meel says, "There are a lot of lessons, from aerodynamics to cooling, as well as the V8 hybrid drivetrain linked to the one we have in the XM." This powertrain will ultimately need to become all-electric in time, and that's why BMW needs to find the answers now.
Fortunately, van Meel seems bullish about the possibilities of making EVs engaging: "The opportunities of electrification are enormous. There are so many more parameters we can control now to make the cars better; we just have to learn how. Our engineers can do a lot more things to make our cars faster, better, and more sustainable. It is not the end of a journey but the beginning of another exciting one for M."
Naturally, software will play a huge role and many sensations will be simulated, but however it is achieved, at least the electric sports cars of the future won't be one-trick ponies.