"Welcome to the Bavarian Electric Motors Factory". BMW-Chef Harald Krüger had to smile a bit when he welcomed some journalists to a look into the future. After all, building the combustion engine has been one of the Munich company's core traditions for a century. But times are changing, tremendously. Car makers need to rethink to stay fit for the future. It is not just regulations and laws - such as CO2 emissions, environmental zones and emission standards - that compel them to do so. Society and mobility behavior are also changing, and with it the typical traditional car buyer. "More and more people live in mega-cities, and more and more people are online more and more," says Krüger, "a generation is on the move. The world is going digital. "
The latter in particular forces BMW to enter into partnerships and forge alliances. Highly accurate digital maps for autonomous driving are being developed jointly with Here, Audi and Daimler. The Bavarian automaker has entered into another cooperation with Mobileye and Intel. And a partnership with Toyota includes not only the construction of a sports car, but above all the development of the fuel cell. Krüger sees environmentally friendly hydrogen technology as the most promising solution, mainly for larger and heavier vehicles. It should start in 2020.
Priority, however, has the electrification of the drives. In the pure battery-powered electric car, BMW already made headway with the i2013 at the end of 3. The environmentally friendly sports car of the future represents the i8, which 2018 will also be a roadster. It would be the only convertible with electric drive.
The plug-in hybrid is to be propelled massively as a combination of gasoline engine and electric motor as well as a plug-in battery. With the new fiver 530e iPerformance, BMW is already launching its sixth plug-in model. Vehicles that have been electrified by 100.000 (60.000 i3, 10.000 i8 and 30.000 plug-ins) have already been sold by Bayerische Motorenwerke in the past three years. "This number will be exceeded by 2017 alone," promises CEO Krüger.
As much competence as necessary remains in the house. In-house developments are, for example, the electric motors. In order to make them fit for the anticipated high volumes, new manufacturing processes have been developed. In addition, the engines are smaller, more efficient and more powerful. This creates new possibilities for the interior designer for the designers.
There is also a lot of Munich know-how in battery development. In limited space, an ever higher energy density must be accommodated. Work is already under way on an 800-Volt battery for the BMW iNext, which, starting with 2021, will usher in a new era of electromobility and should have at least 600 kilometers of range. The battery fills the entire vehicle floor. "This vehicle combines autonomous and emission-free driving, lightweight construction and the highest level of connectivity," says Krüger.
For industry experts, the next i-model is coming - rumors are that it will be called i5 or i6 - but quite late. The competition never sleeps. On the contrary, Audi is sending the Q2018 e-tron crossover to the power pillar in 6. Mercedes countered at about the same time with a soft SUV. The Stuttgart company has even launched the EQ sub-brand for this purpose. With the production model of the Mission E study, Porsche is preparing for a new kind of driving pleasure. Even Jaguar is one of the party. The British recently showed the i-Pace at the fair in Los Angeles and promise a range of over 500 kilometers. And who knows what the Volkswagen group will pull out of quiver in 2019/20? The ID already gave a foretaste at the trade fair in Paris in September.
BMW knows it all. BMW also knows that the i3 alone, however, can do little. Therefore, it was decided in the Munich boardroom, 2019 at least to put the Mini Countryman as an electric car on the wheels and to offer at the core brand for 2020 the X3 as a Stromer derivative.
At the same time, it is important to promote autonomous driving. Laser scanners, cameras, image processing and artificial intelligence have already made considerable progress today. The first cars such as the Mercedes E-Class and the new BMW five can already follow the vehicle in front or the lines on the highway without any action (Level 2), they keep their distance, start up again in traffic jams, brake independently and are even now able to overtake too. But at least one hand has to stay on the steering wheel at all times. With the A8, Audi wants to eliminate precisely this in autumn and thus increase it to level 3.
Autonomous driving should increase safety in traffic. About 90 percent of accidents happen through human error, "says Klaus Büttner," in the US alone, as many people die every day as a plane crashes every day. "The project manager for autonomous driving works at BMW, the computer in the car more and more intelligent close. "The system not only recognizes people, but also captures where the person is looking and calculates what they intend to do in the next moment." Among Büttner's colleagues, this means "pedestrian residence probability spaces."
Even today some drivers may be a bit queasy, the technology will come. At the latest in ten years, experts like Büttner are sure, level 4 is reached. Means: I do not need a driver's license, the car drives me independently from A to B, looking alone on his parking and pick me up on call again. For a few taps on the smartphone are enough. And it does not even have to be your own car.
After all, not only the BMW strategists, but the entire industry is more than clearly aware that simply buying a car, owning it and driving with it, bringing it to the workshop for service is an obsolete model. Digitization will enable things that we would not dream of today. And all in the near future. Automakers are becoming mobility providers, opening up new business opportunities - and ensuring their survival. The key to everything is the smartphone. This year BMW founded the sub-brand "ReachNow" in the USA. It has a similarity to "DriveNow" in Germany or to "Car2go" at Mercedes. But "ReachNow" makes it much easier for the user to become mobile. All he has to do is take a picture of his credit card and driver's license with the smartphone and attach the pictures to the online application. He can drive around with an i3 or Mini. (Michael Specht / SP-X)