BMW's Gasoline Engines Sticking Around For 30 More Years

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But the future of BMW's V8 and V12s are in doubt.

Like many car companies these days, BMW has an ambitious electrification strategy. By 2023, the automaker plans to launch 12 new fully electric automobiles. The German automaker believes there's a demand for a diverse range of powertrains and architectures need to be flexible enough to meet stricter emissions regulations, while satisfying changing customer wants and needs.

"A flexible architecture is the best solution for the next five to 10 years, but clearly if the world turns fully electric, we will develop dedicated architectures," BMW R&D boss Klaus Fröhlich explained to Automotive News Europe. Currently, BMW only uses flexible architectures that can accommodate internal combustion, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric powertrains, with the exception of the fully-electric BMW i3. And it's just the beginning.

2018-2019 BMW i3 Hatchback Front Side in Motion BMW
2018-2019 BMW i3 Hatchback Front View Driving BMW

BMW's CLAR architecture that debuted in 2015 with the 7 Series, but its limitations would have made adapting it for a fully electric version impossible. In the future, that won't be the case.

"We would have needed to add 800 kg (1,763 lbs) to 900 kg (1,984 lbs) of batteries to offer a BEV variant. This would have killed the architecture, not to mention the sheer driving pleasure we aim to offer with every car we make. We had expected that over a decade battery density could increase by 2.5 times. By 2020, we will be close to 2.7 times," explained Fröhlich.

As a result, the CLAR architecture will be updated in 2021 with a new central floor that can house higher-density batteries. And it will also mean the transformation of an iconic nameplate.

"This will permit our plug-in hybrids to travel 80, 100 to 120 km in full-electric mode as well as allowing us to install a larger fuel tank than we have in our current plug-in hybrids," he said. "Using the updated CLAR also will let us offer BEVs [battery-electric vehicles] on the architecture because our forthcoming i4 is basically a battery-powered 3 series."

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A fully electric BMW 3 Series is certainly a departure from the car's analog and simple beginnings. But if the Bavarian automaker wants to steal a slice of the EV pie from Tesla, the plan makes perfect sense. However, it will have to avoid the various pricing pitfalls that come with electric vehicles.

"BEVs cost more because of the raw materials to make the batteries," he said. "This won't change. Prices could eventually increase as demand for these raw materials rises."

Looking further ahead, Fröhlich believes that "electrified vehicles will account for 20 percent to 30 percent of worldwide sales by 2030, but with a very diverse global distribution. He predicts that China's big east coast cities will become purely electric pretty soon while western China will rely on gasoline engines for the next 15 to 20 years due to a lack of infrastructure.

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Rear Angle View CarBuzz

As for the US market, the BMW R&D Chief believes that "most of the US does not need BEVs." For America, Fröhlich eludes to BMW offering high-performance plug-in hybrids in the M space. In turn, this would deliver on a lot of fun for customers, while racking up environmental credits for the automaker. Fröhlich also sees electric vehicles largely staying along the coastal markets, while the rest of the country sticks to conventional engines.

Increased emissions regulations have also forced BMW to update its engine range every year, especially in China, which is expensive. As a result, Frohlich confirmed that BMW's 1.5-liter, three-cylinder, and 400-hp six-cylinder diesel engines won't be replaced. The automaker's four- and six-cylinder diesels, on the other hand, will "remain for at least another 20 years," while BMW's gasoline units will stay in production "for at least 30 years."

BMW has previously said the future of its V12 engine is in doubt, but Fröhlich added the automaker is (unfortunately) finding it "difficult to create a strong business case" to keep its V8 engine alive, as well.

"We have a six-cylinder high-powered plug-in hybrid unit that delivers 441 kilowatts (600 hp) of power and enough torque to destroy many transmissions," he said.

Time will tell how much of what the BMW executive is saying becomes true, but we're not going to bet against him.

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