Next BMW Battery-Powered Cars Will Be Plug-in Hybrids

By · October 27, 2014

At the international media launch of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer in August, BMW said it would release a plug-in hybrid version in 2015.

In 2014, BMW introduced two plug-in vehicles: the all-electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8 sports car. But that might be merely a precursor to a set of new practical plug-in Bimmers coming in 2015 and beyond.

While the i3 uses space-age carbon fiber materials, and the i8 is a futuristic sleek sports car, the upcoming plug-in models—such as a 2-Series Active Tourer, BMW X5 SUV, and a Mini Cooper Clubman—will come in more conventional forms. These new plug-in hybrids, like the BMW electric vehicles before them, have been slowly unveiled as concept models at major international auto shows over a period of years.

A standard package of technology is crystalizing: a gasoline engine in front coupled with a rear-mounted electric motor, and a lithium ion battery able to store enough energy for about 20 miles of all-electric driving. The size of the gas engine will depend on the platform, with smaller cars receiving an efficient 1.5-liter 3-cylinder powerplant—and a more powerful four-cylinder engine going into larger vehicles. These are parallel hybrids, rather than the range-extending series systems used in a Chevy Volt. That means gas power will be used as necessary throughout a drive cycle, with somewhere around 60 MPGe for the bigger vehicles and up to 100 MPGe in cars.

Other fuel-sipping technologies will likely be added—including a start-stop system, air-flap control, and an Ecopro mode to allow coasting and to reduce consumption from air conditioning.

Some of this is guesswork, but zero-to-sixty performance won't be compromised. It should be in the neighborhood of seven seconds, with a top speed of 125 miles per hour. Expect textbook BMW handling. These vehicles are all considered concepts, so further details—including price and when we might see a PHEV version of the 2-series, X5, or Clubman—are not yet available.

It’s been a year since Peter Wolf, BMW’s head of production line for large vehicles, told that battery-packaging issues were the only sticking point that remained in rolling out a plug-in hybrid version of every model in the current range. “We are planning to have a plug-in hybrid vehicle in each and every model series," said Wolf. It appears that starting in 2015, those plans will begin to materialize.

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