BMW's Newest, Greenest Concept: Vision EfficientDynamics

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BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept, 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept, 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show

BMW's legendary M series performance cars use big, brawny, turbocharged gasoline engines. The 2009 BMW M5, for example, has a 500-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-10.

How many cylinders ??? Where ???

But the concept car BMW will unveil in two weeks at the Frankfurt Motor Show promises "the performance of an M vehicle" from a very different source: a tiny, rear-mounted three-cylinder diesel, mated to a plug-in hybrid electric system.

Clearly, Hell has just frozen over.

From this highly unlikely powertrain, BMW claims a 0-to-62-mph time of 4.8 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph. And would you believe gas mileage of more than 60 miles per gallon?

A few more morsels

BMW has been teasing out little bits of information on its Vision EfficientDynamics concept for weeks. Now, it has issued technical details fully as jaw-dropping as any outre styling could ever be.

The turbocharged, 1.5-liter three-cylinder diesel engine, mounted at the rear, produces 163 horsepower. Two electric motors, one per axle, are powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, for a combined total of 356 hp and a stunning 590 foot-pounds of torque.

The rear wheels are driven by a combination of engine and electric power. The engine drives through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the electric motor adds its own torque.

The front wheels, on the other hand, are driven solely by electricity. The range of the Vision EfficientDynamics concept on electricity alone, BMW says, is up to 31 miles.

Electric all-wheel-drive

Among other modes, this could permit fully electric all-wheel-drive. In Europe, running all-electric (for zero emissions) exempts vehicles from tolls and congestion charges in cities like London.

And because it's a plug-in hybrid, the 10.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack can be recharged from the electric grid. That would cut CO2 emissions from 99 grams per kilometer to 50 g/km.

Using standard European 220-Volt power, BMW says the pack could be fully recharged in two and a half hours. With a special, higher-power 380-Volt line, that can be cut to 44 minutes.

Sports coupe

The concept will be a 2+2 sports coupe, though only glimpses of a few styling details have been released as yet. A grand tourer in silhouette, the concept wears aerodynamically influenced cues for style and purpose.

The low front end combines with active louvers that open to cool the drivetrain as needed; otherwise they close to reduce drag and improve airflow.

Cd: 0.22

The EfficientDynamics concept, in fact, has a drag coefficient of just 0.22, while today's best production cars can manage only 0.24 (the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe) and 0.25 (the 2010 Toyota Prius).

Size-wise, the EfficientDynamics concept sits right in the middle of BMW's current coupe range. It measures 181.1 inches long, 74.8 inches wide, and 48.8 inches tall, and weighs 3076 pounds.

Aluminum, Kevlar, and polycarbonate

To keep weight that light while accommodating a heavy battery pack and two electric motors, the body shell and suspension are aluminum, and seat frames are made of Kevlar.

The concept has just 5.3 cubic feet of luggage space, but BMW says that's enough for two golf bags.

The skins of both the roof and the doors are lightweight transparent polycarbonate, which darkens in response to climate, just like photochromic glass.

Interior lighting using LEDs has ambient hues, while turning on the headlights and taillights varies the LEDs' color and intensity. Instrumentation and driver data includes both a heads-up display and night vision.

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