BMW Unveiled Not Just One, But Three Plug-In Hybrids Last Week – Green Car Reports

Posted: Tuesday, December 02, 2014


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If there was any doubt that we’ll see a spate of new plug-in hybrids over the next few years, a set of three different announcements from BMW last week should put that to rest.

The Bavarian maker of “ultimate driving machines” launched a long-wheelbase 5-Series sedan for China with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, showed a prototype 3-Series plug-in hybrid sport sedan, and described a new Power eDrive system that produces a remarkable 670 horsepower.

DON’T MISS: BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid Prototype: We Drive Future Electric SUV

It’s long been known that BMW will introduce a plug-in hybrid X5 sometime next year.

That mid-size SUV will compete with the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 ‘Twin Engine’, a plug-in hybrid model of the refreshed 2016 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class SUV (to be renamed GLE at that time), and perhaps an updated 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid–among others.

BMW X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid prototype, test drive, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, April 2014

BMW X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid prototype, test drive, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, April 2014

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The plug-in BMW X5 uses a powertrain that combines a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 70-kilowatt (95-hp) electric motor sandwiched between the engine and an adapted version of BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission, in which the electric motor replaces the conventional torque converter.

The lithium-ion battery holds 9.9 kilowatt-hours, of which about 6 kWh are usable for power.

Versions of that powertrain are now spreading into other BMW models across the globe.

ALSO SEE: 2016 BMW 3-Series Plug-In Hybrid First Details

The BMW 530Le introduced last week at the Guangzhou Motor Show, for example, is a long-wheelbase 5-Series sedan sold in China, where extra space in the rear seat is crucial for businesspeople with chauffeurs and new owners who haven’t learned to drive.

Combined power output of the engine and electric motor is given as 272 hp, similar to that of the X5 plug-in hybrid, which was expected to be 270 hp or higher. Unlike the X5, however, the 530Le does not include all-wheel drive.

BMW Concept X5 eDrive plug-in hybrid

BMW Concept X5 eDrive plug-in hybrid

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The same powertrain will also soon go into a production version of the smaller 3-Series sedan, as previewed by a so-called “prototype” version shown to European media last week at BMW Innovation Days.

Also a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, the plug-in hybrid 3-Series sedan has peak power of 245 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. BMW quotes an electric range of 22 miles (likely 15 to 18 miles on U.S. test cycles), and an electric-only top speed limited to 74.5 mph.

Additional models are likely to follow as well.

MORE: Tesla And BMW: Natural Competitors In Electric Cars, One Day

But BMW is clearly thinking beyond its current system to future generations of plug-in hybrids. And it’s using components from its BMW i3 and i8 electric cars to boost their performance.

At the same Innovation Days event, the company showed a system it calls Power eDrive, which uses a 200-kW (268-hp) electric motor to power the rear wheels. This lets the vehicle run much of the time solely on electric power alone.

BMW 5-Series GT development prototype for Power eDrive plug-in hybrid system, Nov 2014

BMW 5-Series GT development prototype for Power eDrive plug-in hybrid system, Nov 2014

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A combined engine-motor-transmission combination powers the front wheels as well, making the car a through-the-road hybrid, for longer distances. This time, though, the front motor alone is rated at 150 kW (201 hp), on top of the engine output.

Installed in a BMW 5-Series GT mule, the battery pack occupied the tunnel and the space below the rear seats ahead of the rear axle.

The system is the next stage of vehicle electrification, the company said, with the goal of maximizing the amount of time a vehicle operates in all-electric mode, which naturally boosts its efficiency.

Combined with battery packs of up to 20 kilowatt-hours, the output of these systems will be more than 500 kW (670 hp), letting the vehicle operate solely on electric power throughout two-thirds of its usage cycle.

BMW X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid prototype, test drive, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, April 2014

BMW X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid prototype, test drive, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, April 2014

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The Power eDrive system will be a natural choice for more upmarket vehicle types, BMW suggests, where it will combine largely electric operation and dynamic response with unlimited long-distance capabilities.

With multiple first-generation plug-in hybrid models due over the next three years, and a second-generation system that maximizes electric driving time in the wings, BMW’s commitment to electrifying its model range is now clear.

We can’t wait to drive the cars.

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