Charg­ing the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion

Ler­ato Matebese re­ports on BMW’s fu­ture pow­er­trains

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

IN LAST week’s re­port on the BMW Efficient Dy­nam­ics work­shop I at­tended in Mu­nich re­cently, we dis­cussed some of the core pil­lars of the tech­nol­ogy that in­cluded weight re­duc­tion, aero­dy­nam­ics and en­gine ef­fi­ciency. The lat­ter brings me firmly to this week’s topic, which en­tails elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the pow­er­train that runs both hy­brid and fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Now avid read­ers of Mo­tor News who will re­call my trip to Mu­nich in 2009 where I man­aged to drive the fully elec­tric Mini E, which was part of the maker’s as­sess­ment on the fea­si­bil­ity of the tech­nol­ogy, will re­call how suit­ably im­pressed I was.

It is cer­tainly all good and well when man­u­fac­tur­ers man­age to achieve zero emis­sion ve­hi­cles, but not at the ex­pense of driver en­joy­ment. Thank­fully that was not the case with Mini E.

So then a cou­ple of years on and the Mu­nich boys are re-ex­plor­ing and re­fin­ing elec­tric, hy- brid, and hy­dro­gen power trains.

In the in­stance of the Ac­tive Hy­brid 7 (based on the 7 Se­ries) and X6 model, both of which are equipped with Ac­tive Hy­brid tech­nol­ogy. In layman’s terms this means that the power re­quired for the elec­tric drive func­tions is ob­tained by means of brake en­ergy re­gen­er­a­tion.

Plug-in hy­brid con­cepts mean­while en­able charg­ing of the ve­hi­cle with en­ergy from the main power sup­ply sys­tem. In both cases the achiev­able ve­hi­cle range in elec­tri­cal op­er­a­tion only is highly de­pen­dent on the ca­pac­ity of the stor­age sys­tems.

Sim­ply put, the elec­tric mo­tor in­flu­ences the ve­hi­cle’s char­ac­ter­is­tics in terms of agility, power de­vel­op­ment and range, while the power elec­tron­ics se­cure the ef­fec­tive in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the en­ergy stor­age unit and the elec­tric pow­er­train.

In the case of these key com­po­nents for hy­brid and elec­tric ve­hi­cles, the com­pany found it fit­ting to go the in-house de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion route.

To that end the tech­no­log­i­cal ex­per­tise in the drive sys­tem sec­tor can also be ex­tended to the field of elec­tric mo­bil­ity. In this way, high-volt­age stor­age units, elec­tric mo­tors and power elec­tron­ics can be pre­cisely adapted to the re­quire­ments of each model.

The said high-volt­age stor­age unit’s flex­i­ble mod­u­lar sys­tem can be con­fig­ured for a spe­cific model. In the Ac­tiveHy­brid 7, the en­ergy sup­ply to the mild hy­brid sys­tem is said to be pro­vided by a com­pact lithium-ion bat­tery com­pris­ing of the 35 sin­gle cells, which is in­te­grated into the lug­gage com­part­ment. It de­liv­ers 0.8kWh of en­ergy, pro­vid­ing a max­i­mum ve­hi­cle out­put of 19kW.

Due to the avail­able in­stal­la­tion space of this con­ver­sion con­cept, the in­te­gra­tion of the new BMW high-volt­age stor­age unit into the BMW Ac­tiveE re­quired three stor­age units of dif­fer­ent size and shape.

They are in­stalled within the area of the cen­tre tun­nel, at the front and at the rear of the ve­hi­cle.

The stor­age units con­tain sev­eral mod­ules of three dif­fer­ent sizes, the de­signs of which have iden­ti­cal cell sizes, and struc­tures, each of them hav­ing a dif­fer­ent num­ber of cells. The three stor­age units pro­vide the Ac­tiveE’s 125kW elec­tric mo­tor with some 30kWh of power.

As seen in the pilot pro­ject in the 1 Se­ries hatch, the con­fig­u­ra­tion has al­lowed a much more com­pact lay­out, which is in­deed a far cry from the bulky setup found in the Mini E.

We could be see­ing BMW’s first Ac­tive Hy­brid lo­cally in the form of the 5 Se­ries model, al­though no ex­act timeta­bles have been given. While zero emis­sions are in­te­gral to BMW’s Efficient Dy­nam­ics strat­egy, I have a dis­tinct feel­ing that driver en­joy­ment will re­main at the core of the com­pany’s val­ues.

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