BMW selects slow road to electric future

BMW Vision 100

BMW has announced a five-year wait to see the next big step in the German luxury brand’s electric car – and whether it will also carry an Apple logo.

Harald Kruger, the chairman of BMW’s board of management, announced at the carmaker’s annual general meeting overnight that its next big leap in its “i” hybrid and electric sub-brand wouldn’t surface until 2021 – lagging rivals’ timelines for similar technology leaps.

He said the company’s performance now would help to “pay for revolution over the coming years”.

“I have always emphasised that electro-mobility is a marathon, not a sprint,” Kruger said.

“We are further expanding the BMW i line-up. In just a few weeks, we will offer an i3 with 50 per cent more battery capacity. In 2018, we will launch a BMW i8 Roadster.

“This will be followed in 2021 by the BMW i NEXT, our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

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However, Kruger said the German luxury brand was still waiting to see which way drivetrain technology would turn before backing one.

“We will continue to chart our own course,” he said. “It is still unclear which drivetrain will prevail, but we are prepared: We are optimising the combustion engine with Efficient Dynamics NEXT, in which efficient diesel engines will continue to play an important role.

“At the same time, we are electrifying our vehicles – focusing on battery power for short distances and fuel cells for longer trips. In this area, we are working closely with our partner, Toyota.”

Kruger said he also wanted BMW to dominate in the field of autonomous car technology, which was still evolving.

“People often ask me, when will we be driving autonomously,” he said. “My answer is: We already can.

“A BMW test vehicle autonomously completed a lap of the Hockenheimring racetrack back in 2006. In 2011, a BMW drove on the A9 autobahn from Munich towards Nuremberg – without any driver intervention,” he said.

“It will be a while before these cars reach series maturity – also because the proper legal framework for customers and manufacturers has not yet been decided.”

Rumours have speculated that BMW has already held extensive talks with computing and software giant Apple, which is believed to be working on its own version of the autonomous car under the codename Project Titan.

News broke overnight that Apple – better known for its consumer-friendly smartphones and laptops than carmaking – has tripled its spend on research and development in the last year to almost $A14 billion as it ramps up development work of the so-called iCar. 

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