The Spun Bearing: Securing the High Ground, Hub Motors, and Smartphones vs Cars

Featured Posts, Interesting | November 24th, 2011 by 8
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Securing the High Ground I’m in the midst of going over material from the Frankfurt Auto Show and press releases to continue coverage of the …

Securing the High Ground

I’m in the midst of going over material from the Frankfurt Auto Show and press releases to continue coverage of the BMW ‘i’ sub-brand. I owe BMWBLOG’s readers transcriptions of interviews with Jacob Benoit and Ulrich Kranz of the ‘i’ group. And BMW recently released a fairly large document to the press prior to the re-introduction of the i3 and i8 concepts at the LA and Tokyo auto shows (Pacific rim shows that cover two important car markets).

But in looking at the material it becomes evident that BMW is attempting to secure the high ground in the electrified vehicle market. By committing to mass producing carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cells, BMW can be much more flexible with the outline of the performance envelop for the car. The reduction in vehicle weight that the CFRP cell, aluminum chassis, and thermoplastic skin offer will allow BMW to deliver a BMW-like driving experience with the i3 and i8.

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It’s odd that we haven’t seen this progress in chassis design from other high line manufacturers yet. There is group called the Automotive Composites Consortium, made up of Chrysler, Ford, and GM, that is investigating the use of resin transfer molding. The latest from that group is a March 31, 2011 press release that talks about a patent for a floor-pan that utilizes chopped fiberglass built using RTM. It is
interesting that BMW, a small manufacturer, is this far ahead of the game.

Bear in mind that BMW’s i3 will be priced attractively, with the i8 demanding a premium for its styling and performance. The i3 will be the first truly middle-class affordable CFRP vehicle. And that’s how BMW has
staked out the high ground. They may need to find a way to ramp up production, beyond the 30K annual number that’s been bandied about, because this car will be a game-changer.

Hub Motors

There are a few ‘spy’ pictures of a 7er with what are purported to be electric motors in the wheel hubs floating around on the interwebs. But hold on a minute, while hub motors have some benefit (for instance, they can tailor power output to the individual corner through software, maximizing available traction), there are a number of drawbacks. They have higher unsprung weight than a traditional setup and they have lower specific power outputs than a motor that won’t fit in the hub. My guess would be that the wheels contain instrumentation for testing a suspension setup. But hey, I’ve been to known to be wrong, just ask my wife. (Oh and speaking of motors in a hub . . . )

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Smartphones versus Cars

The New York Times ran a story that a growing number of teens are more interested in smartphones than cars. The horror, but that does explain the need for vehicle manufacturer’s to emphasize their ability to offer a ‘connected’ experience to drivers. Ford has done well with MySync and BMW has stepped up with ConnectedDrive. But what should bother BMW, more so than other manufacturers, is that teens are less engaged by the driving experience. Why lust after a BMW when they don’t care about driving; in that case a Kia Soul with an IP address is an elegant sufficiency anything more would be superfluous. Ugh, say it ain’t so, but I’m afraid it is.


Harvest festivals are worldwide and ancient. President Franklin D Roosevelt made the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, a national holiday in the United States (though President Lincoln had urged a common date on individual states observances of Thanksgiving about 80 years earlier). It’s a time to be thankful for what the year has brought to our lives, the growth, and for the presence of our families and friends. I would be remiss in not thanking our readers, smart, passionate, and opinionated, for making our continued presence on BMWBLOG possible.

Thank you all.