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      12-09-2018, 09:41 AM   #1
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[Wired]:BMW's new electric car powertrain system totally torpedoes Tesla

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Beyond the raft of new EVs and concepts at the LA Motor Show this year, the two most interesting things were not in the form of cars at all.

First was Volvo's stand. It had no cars on it at all. None. While other manufacturers were squeezing as many motors onto their plots as they could manage, Volvo had a couple of technology booths on display (some VR nonsense and an early look at it's new Google UI for the entertainment system), Luminar LIDAR sensors that have a range of 250 metres and - particularly striking - a large banner running the width of the stand that read: "Don't buy our cars".

This inflammatory slogan, no doubt upsetting the swarm of traditional car dealers trooping around the hall, was in reference to Volvo profiling its move towards car subscription, much in the same way we buy smartphones, over outright ownership. The stand was bold and had more than a whiff of the future about it, and as a consequence many of the automobile old-guard absolutely hated it.

The most impressive unveiling from the LA show, however, came from BMW. As part of the briefing for the new BMW Vision iNext, Stefan Juraschek, VP of electric powertrain development, showed off a groundbreaking new platform that will allow BMW to produce internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, plug-in hybrids as well as pure EVs using the same basic architecture, all on the same production line.



This is a remarkable solution to the production problem plaguing the major car manufacturers at present: which powertrain to commit to going forward? Which will the public eventually favour? Get it wrong and the consequences are severe, because car companies are like oil tankers. Such is the lead time on vehicle development that changing direction to respond to market whims normally takes years, and to do it quickly is almost impossible. Conventional production lines that focus on one type of powertrain are locked in to producing that version, to a certain degree.

A prime example of this came from Jaguar Land Rover in October when it announced that it would close its factory in Solihull for two weeks due to a slump in demand in China, with sales falling by 50 per cent. The closure followed the reduction of production at its Castle Bromwich plant, which came as a result of demand falling this year due to the huge drop in popularity of diesel engines. Some 45 per cent of the company's output are diesels.

The genius of BMW's new powertrain system is that the company is in effect backing every horse in the race. If the ICE clings on longer than predicted, diesel somehow miraculously comes back into favour, we decide to love the convenience of hybrids over full EVs shunning all other options, or humanity falls for electric vehicles as soon as charging infrastructure is at least halfway decent, BMW will have it covered. Unlike those who have bet heavily on diesel, or Tesla, with its powertrain options limited to EV only.



The production model of the BMW Vision iNext, due 2021 and also unveiled at the show, will be the first car from the company to be built on the new platform. The key is BMW's reworking of the electrics, where it has managed to combine an electric motor with both the gearbox and power electronics – all of which are currently separate components – into one unit. This allows BMW to mount one unit over the rear for an EV, then add an ICE on the front for hybrid or another electric unit on the front for EV all-wheel drive. Similarly if BMW wants to make just an ICE then no electric units need be added.

The full EV iNext will have a range of 435 miles and support level three autonomy at up to 80 mph on motorways, but also ready for levels 4 and 5 where and when this is permitted.

The announcement from BMW, following Jaguar's I-Pace and Audi's e-tron, as well as the slew of ID electric cars coming imminently from VW, marks a turning point in the auto industry – one where the traditional manufacturers seem to have finally rallied after the significant head start Tesla has gained in the electric vehicle market.

But by biding its time and working the problem, rather than rushing to compete, and, crucially, knowing that no one really knows what the global motoring market will look like in 2025, BMW has produced an innovative solution to the problem of which powertrain to get behind: all of them. It's not sexy, but it's very clever.
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/bmw-...rbTGzUjz4-vN3c
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      12-09-2018, 06:41 PM   #2
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We don’t know until it’s in production.
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      12-09-2018, 07:46 PM   #3
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      12-09-2018, 09:46 PM   #4
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How does this "torpedo Tesla?"

Tesla has absolutely no interest in ICE at all, and realizes its a dying technology, why would they waste resources developing something so compromised?

I struggle to find what is so innovative about this, its a compromise to remain chained to a market that refuses to move forward, a plea to appease stock holders and a mediocre attempt to guide change.

When you have to mention a company that is actually an innovator(Tesla) to get people to take notice, you're no longer a technology leader, hand gestures aside.

Last edited by hon2bmw; 12-12-2018 at 10:36 PM..
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      12-10-2018, 09:13 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hon2bmw View Post
How does this "torpedo Tesla?"

Tesla has absolutely no interest in ICE at all, and realizes its a dying technology, why would they waste resources developing something so compromised?

I struggle to find what is so innovative about this, its a compromise to remain chained to a market that refuses to move forwarded, a plea to appease stock holders and a mediocre attempt to guide change.

When you have to mention a company that is actually an innovator(Tesla) to get people to take notice, you're no longer technology leader, hand gestures aside.
I agree with this take, and I also question what sort of compromises will have to be made to the chassis (most likely in terms of driving dynamics) to make a 1 size fits all solution
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      12-10-2018, 09:28 AM   #6
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I agree with this take, and I also question what sort of compromises will have to be made to the chassis (most likely in terms of driving dynamics) to make a 1 size fits all solution
If you guys were a part of the automotive engineering community, this would make your pants tight. It's pretty remarkable from a packaging stand point. I bet there are compromises for sure though.
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      12-10-2018, 11:06 AM   #7
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I've said this before... I'm not sure if a "one size fits all chassis" is going to produce a good ICE powered car, hybrid car, or EV car. It might be more convenient to build though...

Seems BMW once claimed to design cars to be the "ultimate driving machine". I would be surprised if you could do this with a universal chassis. For example, What are they going to do, put weights in the car to help get that 50/50 weight distribution in various configurations?

"Design with purpose". This design might be good for the production line, but I doubt very seriously if something like this will produce anything close to the "ultimate driving machine".

Might be pretty cool for an economy car company but not for the likes of BMW I think.

A flying car isn't a particularly good car or a good airplane.
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      12-10-2018, 11:17 AM   #8
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"This allows BMW to mount one unit over the rear for an EV, then add an ICE on the front for hybrid or another electric unit on the front for EV all-wheel drive."


Does this imply that any ICE propulsion is to the front wheels? If all EV componentry is integrated, including the gearbox, that unit would power the rear wheels in this case, no? So if there is an ICE up front, I can't imagine there would be a drive shaft to also power the rear wheels. Is there even a tunnel to accommodate a drive shaft for the ICE-only model?
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      12-10-2018, 11:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hon2bmw View Post
How does this "torpedo Tesla?"

Tesla has absolutely no interest in ICE at all, and realizes its a dying technology, why would they waste resources developing something so compromised?

I struggle to find what is so innovative about this, its a compromise to remain chained to a market that refuses to move forwarded, a plea to appease stock holders and a mediocre attempt to guide change.

When you have to mention a company that is actually an innovator(Tesla) to get people to take notice, you're no longer technology leader, hand gestures aside.
The BMW ActiveHybrid 3, built on a F30 / 335i platform from 2013 - 2015 produced approximately 1475 vehicles for the USA market over its 3 year run. Well over 2/3rds for the MY 2013 and barely 100 for the MY 2015. Most of the 2013 sold because of incentives BMWFS had on the car making their lease less than a similar F30 335i.

The numbers in the EU appear very simIlar.

I still love mine but it clearly was not a commercial success.
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      12-10-2018, 11:18 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by HawkeyeGeoff View Post
If you guys were a part of the automotive engineering community, this would make your pants tight. It's pretty remarkable from a packaging stand point. I bet there are compromises for sure though.
The question in my mind is whether the compromises will impact the product in a way that consumers are sensitive to. For example, Tesla's cars have a trunk in the front. You can't do that if you wedge an E-Machine in where the engine used to be. That's a really simplistic example obviously, but what about the more esoteric differences that can result in very real impacts on performance? For example, what is the weight impact of such an architecture? I'm sure BMW are very focused on this, but flexibility often comes at the cost of weight.

Obviously we don't know the answers to these kinds of questions, but magazines like Wired are rarely attuned to the details that matter.

Put another way, I'm reminded of this comparison:

This is a knife, screwdriver, bottle opener, ruler, saw, corkscrew, pliers, clock, nail file, and much much more. It costs $425.



But what if I really only need to drive some philips head screws?

This is a $4 philips screwdriver. Sure, you can't cut things with it, but if you only need to drive screws, who cares how it cuts?



This is an extreme example, but it is the challenge BMW faces. Will customers be satisfied with a car built on a Swiss Army knife architecture, or will they gravitate to more focused designs, which skip any compromises and sells at a similar cost?

BMW's strategy here is one of risk avoidance. They're a small company, which makes committing to a dedicated EV platform extremely risky. If their timing is off even by a little bit, it could put the company at risk. So they're making engineering compromises to avoid risk. Everyone in the market does the same thing, but I'm a little concerned that BMW might have made some dangerous compromises in the process.
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      12-10-2018, 11:28 AM   #11
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I agree.

Any multi-powered compromise WILL NOT result in the "Ultimate Driving Machine".
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      12-10-2018, 11:50 AM   #12
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      12-10-2018, 11:52 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by evanevery View Post
I agree.

Any multi-powered compromise WILL NOT result in the "Ultimate Driving Machine".
I get the skepticism, it makes sense. But the "Ultimate Driving Machine" slogan really just says "you're going to enjoy driving our cars." The fact of the matter is, a road-going passenger car is a compromised Swiss Army Knife type of a product to begin with. There are many kinds of driving and BMW never made any promises of what kind of Ultimate Driving they were referring to. Long track, short track, drag strip, off road, mountain roads, grocery getting? Even a truly single-purpose car, whether it be F1 or Top Fuel, still must be engineered around compromises. In fact, a do-it-all product that doesn't excel in anything can be exceptionally groundbreaking, useful to the consumer and profitable to the company. Look at smartphones. Call quality is not as good as a landline, the camera is not a good as an SLR (nor is the camcorder), the flashlight isn't as good as a Maglite, the small screen isn't as good as a 24" desktop, the onscreen keyboard sucks, battery life is nothing compared to being plugged in … I can go on. The point is we all have them, get great use out to them and the tech companies that design them make a bunch of money. Sometimes products can be revolutionary because people can do some amazing things. This solution may turn out to be too compromised for many, or maybe just for a few. I'm curious to see how they've done.
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      12-10-2018, 11:52 AM   #14
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If BMW had their shit together I'd be buying a new battery electric vehicle from them instead of taking delivery of my new Tesla Model 3... If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready BMW !!!
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      12-10-2018, 12:26 PM   #15
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I'm pullin' for BMW! But it shouldn't have taken this long...

Meanwhile, the Model 3 outsold ALL BMW passenger cars combined in the US for the month of August. ...and it shows no signs of slowing down. Tesla is building and shipping 4500-5000 vehicles PER WEEK and they haven't even started shipping them to Europe (next month)!

https://insideevs.com/tesla-model-3-...assenger-cars/

Model 3 sales account for 36% of ALL BEV and PHEV vehicles sold this year in the US. (BMW 530e is number 9. i3/i8 didn't make the list)...

https://insideevs.com/the-chart-topp...cles-for-2018/
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      12-10-2018, 12:47 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evanevery View Post
I'm pullin' for BMW! But it shouldn't have taken this long...

Meanwhile, the Model 3 outsold ALL BMW passenger cars combined in the US for the month of August. ...and it shows no signs of slowing down. Tesla is building and shipping 4500-5000 vehicles PER WEEK and they haven't even started shipping them to Europe (next month)!

Model 3 sales account for 36% of ALL BEV and PHEV vehicles sold this year in the US. (BMW 530e is number 9. i3/i8 didn't make the list)...

https://insideevs.com/the-chart-topp...cles-for-2018/

The thing about Tesla's numbers that make comparisons a bit lopsided is they're trying to catch up to meet pre-orders and a backlog of demand from folks who've been waiting for quite some time. I'll be interested to see how they fare once they're in a steady state and producing/selling based on month to month demand.

I do agree though that the rest of the companies are late to the EV game, but I don't think that will cause them to fall behind to Tesla especially since Tesla plans to (or already has) open source everything.
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      12-10-2018, 01:16 PM   #17
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Well, they've ALREADY fallen behind. The question is can they catch up?

I expect they can. The question is how long it will take to catch up to the Tesla Juggernaut. Tesla has quite a lead. They are delivering the EV vehicles that people want RIGHT NOW. IMHO - Its all about 200+ miles of range...

Jaguar (I-Pace) has been in the game for some months. Audi's (E-Tron) and Benz's (EQC) entrance are imminent. Rivian is getting ready to introduce a a very cool 400+ mile pickup truck and SUV (next year): https://products.rivian.com/

I'm on my 3rd EV (inc an i8) and actually wondering what will be next! Perhaps the Rivian or maybe wait for the Tesla Roadster! These are great times!

The game's clearly "afoot" but BMW has got a lot of catching up to do.
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      12-10-2018, 02:01 PM   #18
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      12-10-2018, 02:59 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hon2bmw View Post
How does this "torpedo Tesla?"

Tesla has absolutely no interest in ICE at all, and realizes its a dying technology, why would they waste resources developing something so compromised?

I struggle to find what is so innovative about this, its a compromise to remain chained to a market that refuses to move forwarded, a plea to appease stock holders and a mediocre attempt to guide change.

When you have to mention a company that is actually an innovator(Tesla) to get people to take notice, you're no longer technology leader, hand gestures aside.
I think "torpedo Tesla" is a bit of an exaggeration, but with our current infrastructure, having a compromise between range and electric efficiency is actually pretty smart.

Think about it. For most of us, we either need our cars to go 50 miles per day, for commuting to work, or 500+ miles per day for a road trip. What is the point of having a car that can go 300 miles per day? It sounds good because that's almost the range ICE cars have, but ignores the fact that gas stations are everywhere and takes no more than a few minutes to fill up. Even IF you are road tripping to places that have superchargers, they take much longer to fill up and you are at the mercy of their availability.

If you could have a car that can drive 50 miles per day on pure electric, then you would almost never need to gill up on gasoline. For all intents and purposes, you have a pure electric car. If you want to go on a 1000 mile road trip, you can use the gasoline engine to get you there. If you want extra performance, your car will use both drivetrains for that.

To be clear, this is not a PERMANENT solution. It's meant to be a stop gap. It allows BMW to make a car for people who want an ICE car, a hybrid, and a pure EV easily. Once we figure out fast charging and there are chargers in as many places as there are gas stations, we can go pure EV, sure. But we are still far away from that reality. Most of the people that have 300 mile range Teslas drive about 50 miles per day and never really need the full capacity of their 75kWh battery packs.
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      12-10-2018, 03:38 PM   #20
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So with the introduction of all these electric cars, how is our electric grid system going to hold up? With so many electric cars hitting the roads we would need to completely redesign our lifestyle. If everyone going to work at 7 AM in a particular neighborhood that is "green" charging their EVs overnight, how is that not going to over load the grid?

The only way this will work out in the future is if we figure out nuclear fusion
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      12-10-2018, 03:52 PM   #21
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Remind me of the battle between Sony and Samsung for TVs. Sony was a pioneer in flatscreen TV development. At the same time they had a huge number of inflexible cathode ray TV factories. Only logical solution was to delay the inevitable shift to flatscreen TVs. Samsung on the other hand had no reason for such delay and ploughed ahead with it.

You can almost see that BMW is trying hard to avoid becoming another case study like Sony TV. But the real question is what kinda compromise each car will make to accommodate a manufacturing dilemma.
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      12-10-2018, 03:56 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by five3three View Post
The thing about Tesla's numbers that make comparisons a bit lopsided is they're trying to catch up to meet pre-orders and a backlog of demand from folks who've been waiting for quite some time. I'll be interested to see how they fare once they're in a steady state and producing/selling based on month to month demand.

I do agree though that the rest of the companies are late to the EV game, but I don't think that will cause them to fall behind to Tesla especially since Tesla plans to (or already has) open source everything.
I mean, you're correct, but does that make it better or worse?

Stop to consider it for a moment. Incumbent automakers have left so much demand on the table, that the uncorking of said demand eclipses the sales of every other car in the market (of the same type [sedan]).
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