BMW may be working on a slew of electric vehicles kicking off with the iX3 coming later this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s about to give up on the old combustion engine. The Bavarians are well aware the switch to EVs is not going to happen overnight as the entire process will take at least a couple of decades until the last car feeding on petrol or diesel will leave the assembly line.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe, BMW’s R&D boss Klaus Froehlich reassured fans of traditional engines the company will be sticking with ICEs for the decades to come. He mentioned the four- and six-cylinder turbodiesels will be available for at least 20 years, while the petrol engines will be available for at least 30 years from now.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be some significant changes to BMW’s engine offerings as stricter emissions regulations in some parts of the world could spell the end of the V12. Available in the £136,080 M760i xDrive fullsize luxury saloon, the twin-turbo 6.6-litre behemoth with its 601 bhp is a force to be reckoned with.
However, the car’s steep price means not a lot of people have the means to get behind the wheels of the V12-powered luxobarge, with Klaus Froehlich saying BMW makes only “a few thousand units each year.” It means the V12 doesn’t have a solid business case, especially since updating the engine to meet more stringent regulations equates to “several thousand euros of added cost.” It won’t be dropped right away, but the chances of seeing this engine after 2023 are slim.
Speaking of business cases, the company’s R&D head honcho said it’s already difficult to make one for the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 since electrified six-cylinder engines can already produce 600 horsepower and a lot of torque “to destroy many transmissions.”
On the diesel side, Klaus Froehlich said the three-cylinder 1.5-litre along with the quad-turbo found in the M550d and M50d models will be retired. According to a recent report, the torquey inline-six 3.0-litre unit will be dropped later this year, with the M550d Saloon and Touring the first ones to get the axe this summer, presumably with the impending 5 Series facelift. The M50d-badged X5, X6, and X7 SUVs will follow suit.
During the same interview, the R&D boss talked about electrification and how an updated CLAR platform due in 2021 will facilitate the launch of plug-in hybrids with as much as 120 kilometres (75 miles) of electric range. These vehicles will have a bigger fuel tank, meaning owners will be able to cover longer distances before having to refuel.
He went on to characterise the upcoming i4 as being “basically a battery-powered 3 Series” riding on an EV version of the aforementioned CLAR architecture, adding that pilot production of fuel cell electric cars will kick off early this decade with the X6 and X7 large SUVs.