In recent weeks, BMW has set the blogosphere alight with a trickle of information regarding a concept that would be on display for the upcoming Frankfurt auto show. If you guessed that the new vehicle would be a turbo-diesel plug-in hybrid sports car, you were right.
The so-called Vision EfficientDynamics Concept uses a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine in concert with an electric motor on each axle for a combined 356 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The three-cylinder is basically half of the engine in the BMW 335d sport sedan, which has garnered praise in the media for delivering exceptional fuel economy and performance.
The Vision's 33 horsepower rear electric motor is placed between the diesel engine and a six-speed dual clutch transmission. During coasting or braking, the electric motor generates power for the lithium-polymer battery in the car.
Whereas current hybrids and electric vehicles utilize nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion batteries, lithium-polymer technology is emerging as the next big thing. Hyundai has committed to lithium-polymer batteries for the 2011 Sonata Hybrid, citing lower weight and cooler operating temperatures, which could improve battery life.
Charging the Vision's battery with a 220 V, 16 Amp EU power outlet will take only 2.5 hours. Using a 380 V, 32 Amp source would require only 44 minutes.
The Vision's second electric motor produces 80-horsepower to drive the front axle. The two motors and the diesel engine enable the car to travel using only electric power, only diesel or both concurrently, in limitless combinations.
BMW says this hybrid powertrain, which expands on the technology debuting in the ActiveHybrid 7 and X6 production models in Frankfurt, will deliver extraordinary performance. The Vision's top speed is electronically limited to 155 and 0-62 mph takes only 4.8 seconds. These numbers aren't earth shattering in today's performance car market, until you consider that the Vision achieves 62.6 mpg on the EU test cycle.
The hybrid system isn't the only trick to making this 3,076 lb car so efficient. The chassis and suspension are made of lightweight aluminium, while the roof and doors incorporate polycarbonate glass which darkens automatically when light shines on it. "High Precision" direct injection is utilized in the diesel engine and variable intake geometry is incorporated into the turbocharger, both of which make better use of fuel.
With the engine just in front of the rear axle, the front of the car rides very close to the ground. This layout in combination with the Vision's exterior design achieves a drag coefficient of only 0.22.
If none of these fuel saving measures have impressed you, BMW's "Forward-looking energy management" concept should. (If it doesn't impress you it might scare you.) The German automaker says that data collected from the car's various systems (GPS navigation, active cruise control, rain sensing wipers, etc.) could be interpreted by the onboard computer to anticipate driving conditions immediately ahead and prepare the vehicle accordingly.
If this is the future of motoring, sign us up.