BMW’s 700 hp eDrive prototype can be a Tesla killer

BMW i | March 17th, 2015 by 41
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It seems as if BMW has a group of mad scientists posing as engineers working deep within the bowels of the Bavarian brand’s factories. These …

It seems as if BMW has a group of mad scientists posing as engineers working deep within the bowels of the Bavarian brand’s factories. These mad scientists have been working on a special vehicle, which is so far from being a production vehicle, that it isn’t even a prototype. This secret monster is a test bed for next-gen, plug-in hybrid technology and is nicknamed “The Thing.”

What “The Thing’s” real name is the 5 Series GT Power eDrive. But “The Thing” sounds far more menacing, so we’ll stick to that. What “The Thing” is, is a plug-in hybrid 5 Series GT with a 270 hp electric motor at the back powering the rear wheels, a 200 hp next-gen electric motor at the front powering the front wheels, along with a 230 hp four-cylinder engine at the front providing power when needed, which apparently isn’t often.

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The combined power output of this monster is 700 hp, or more than the Porsche 918 makes from its engine. Friedrich Wilhelm, BMW’s development engineer, told Car and Driver “It’s designed to have the same feeling of performance as a 550i or a 650i, running mostly electric but with a range of more than 600 kilometers [373 miles],”. That’s, quite simply put, madness. The ability to travel 373 on almost only battery power but provide 700 hp is simply astonishing. The folks at C&D were able to go along for a ride in “The Thing” and, while there are no official numbers, they say it feels as if it can hit 60 mph in under four seconds. That’s Ferrari levels of quick, in a car with seats for five and a massive hatch at the rear. And did I mention it was a hybrid?

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If BMW is able to eek out this level or performance and efficiency out of its new electric motor and battery technology, than the Tesla Model S P85D better watch out. Because as it stands, “The Thing” has more power and goes further, while also having more cargo space. Imagine this technology in something lighter like a standard 5 Series? That would take the P85D head on.

Now if/when Elon Musk hears about this, he will inevitably point to the fact that not only is “The Thing” experimental and he has experimental projects as well, but that “The Thing” uses a gasoline engine in tandem with electricity while the Model S does not. However, I think that’s a selling point for BMW’s technology as over the Model S. Plug-in hybrids offer more flexibility as they can be filled with gasoline as needed, so range anxiety no longer exists. Although, Mr. Musk claims to be eliminating range anxiety, there’s simply no scenario where a pure electric car has the range of a plug-in hybrid.

However, we must not forget that “The Thing” is purely experimental. Although the technologies in it are there to be developed for future projects, I doubt we’ll be seeing them in production anytime soon. But it’s nice to know that when BMW wants, it has a group of mad scientists that can create monsters to scare off the competition.

41 responses to “BMW’s 700 hp eDrive prototype can be a Tesla killer”

  1. viper says:

    Nah,,,,to good to be true ,BMW just isn’t able to do these kind of things anymore , their focus is not power nor performance anymore , it’s the numbers of sales aka fwd cars and minivans..their cars are almost all copy and paste models , except i segment.

    • Icebreaker says:

      idiot youre talking about merc and audi there.. the M divison is pooping all over amg and RS.. and copy and paste? yeah right look at mercedes making a copycat version of the X6. EVERYONE COPYS BMW LOOK AT THE i8 NOW EVERYONE IS MAKING THEIR OWN VERSION. how stupid are you bet youre that idiot from youtube who talks sh*t about bmw all day sad loser get a life

      • jack says:

        A better definition of a “sad loser” is somebody who gets agitated and abusive just because someone dissed a brand you like.

  2. Darko says:

    Why bother with including the IC engine in the car at all, when you can realize all these performance numbers with the pure electric solution, including long range travel…? Think about it…

    • Chris says:

      BMW dont want to put 400 kg of Batteries in the Cars. I understand their decision. Better waiting for lighter batteries or fuel cells!

      • Darko says:

        Aren’t you just replacing ~400kg of IC engine + transmission + fuel tank/fuel with the equal weight of batteries/e-motors? Doesn’t it all come to the same weight, only you don’t need to maintain and fuel the ICE any more? It looks to be much simpler, cheaper and more elegant solution…

        • iDriver says:

          Could not agree more with that. Especially as this is not a car being produced and sold right now but at some (distant) point in future. By that time battery progress should be sufficient to not need the ICE anymore. If performance is the real objective, rather put four in-wheel electric motors – something like the Toroidion (1,300+ bhp) pure electric or Merc SLS E.

          The other thing that I do not understand, is why people keep comparing the range of ICE and EV like for like in miles (or km). Anybody who knows even just the basics of how EVs are used should know it is flawed to make such a comparison. An EV starts every day with a fully loaded battery, the ICE does typically not leave your house with a full tank. So chances that you need to stop for petrol on say a 300 km trip with the above hybrid is more likely than with a 500 km range BEV. With fast chargers becoming more widespread along the highways (in the US and Europe at least), a 400-500 km range for a BEV should be more than sufficient and comparable in comfort with current ICEs having 800-900 km. So can we please stop overplaying the hybrid’s range (while recognising there is an advantage when comparing with current sub-200 km EVs).

          • jack says:

            I don’t think the range issue is being overplayed. It depends on where you live. For example I live in Australia. If I had an EV and I wanted to drive from my home in Melbourne to my friend in Sydney, which I do a few times a year, there is currently no way in hell I’ll make it there without raiding someone’s home for their electric outlet.

            Also, you’re comparing ICEs and EVs, but then you conflate your argument with a 3rd type of vehicle: Hybrids, which confuses your point.

          • jack says:

            Typo: I meant “conflate terms”

          • jack says:

            You should also not assume that EVs are fully charged at the start of every day. If people forget to charge their phones, surely they will forget to charge their car. Also, what’s more unpredictable in EVs is the severe reduction of range in certain climates, adding extra uncertainties to range.

    • João Resende says:

      I guess the IC engine is also used as a generator for the batteries .

  3. Chris says:

    What a great car!

  4. Mike Vella says:

    I’ve said it before – by the end of this decade, no one will be going to a lot to buy a new car (primary commuter, etc..) that runs only on gas.

    • Larry Nicklas says:

      They all are now. Gravity and getting pushed/towed. Realy though, you’re off by 10+ years. God bless us all with the landfills that have those batteries from a billion cars though. Would love to see pollution stats of batteries production and waste versus burning petrol and diesel.

      • Mike Vella says:

        The batteries are not dumped into landfill. That’s some sort of bizarre Fox News propaganda. I love how concerned they are when necessary about the environment.
        And as is usually the case, my state of CA is leading the way with charging stations, so pushing and towing isn’t an issue now, and will certainly not be in the future.
        We drove from Southern CA to Phoenix twice in the last few months and see many, many Tesla model S’s along the route. They can easily plug in even in remote places like Gila Bend, AZ..
        In this world, there are always leaders, and innovators, and people that like to scoff.

        • jack says:

          Being leaders and innovators doesn’t automatically make them right. The leaders and innovators of the last century paved towns with tar and brought to the road vehicles running cancer causing leaded fuel. Some of us are naive enough to believe that leaders and innovators aren’t open to criticism and have their motives questions.

          • Mike Vella says:

            Criticism is fine, just make sure what you say is true. Which in your case, it’s not.

    • jack says:

      I’ll tell you a story. A long time ago on a grade school trip to a kid’s exhibition of renewable energy sources, one of the guides said that by the time we grew up and buy our first car, it would be electric. So I’m waiting until the price comes down so I can buy my very first car, just to prove her right.

  5. CDspeed says:

    “The Thing” is a waste of time compared to the Model S, it’s just a big i3 REx. The trunk space in a Model S is bigger then a 5GT, you couldn’t even attempt to put in rear facing child seats like you can in a Model S. And with Tesla’s expansive SuperCharger network, why would you opt for a gasoline engine over free rapid charging? Just because this car accelerates fast on electric power, and uses two electric motors doesn’t make it a Tesla killer. When you buy an electric car you get rid of gasoline, fluctuating gas prices, and you reduce maintenance to almost nothing, the Model S can do it, but the 5GT Power eDrive can’t. It’s a step toward a fully electric car, but if this powertrain is all that BMW is working on for their 2020 i car they’re going to find themselves 20 years behind Tesla. I’m starting to notice BMW’s electric efforts slow down, two out of three i car models use gasoline, and all we’ve heard of being developed are plug-in hybrids, where are the electric cars?

    • “The Thing” is only a test bed for battery and motor technology. The battery in it has twice the capacity of the i3’s yet is the same size. It’s actually quite impressive tech and it’s only in its infancy.

      • CDspeed says:

        It’s hard to say what the 5GT Power eDrive will lead to, but as it stands a plug-in hybrid won’t have Tesla engineers loosing any sleep. Also I though I read somewhere that the Power eDrive only had an 80 mile range in electric mode?

      • CDspeed says:

        Here is an article that says it only goes 62 miles in electric mode, that’s not much better then a 2nd generation Chevy Volt.

      • CDspeed says:

        Every article I can find says the Power eDrive has a 20 kWh battery, the i3 has a 22 kWh battery……………….

        • Here’s an article by Car and Driver. Says the power eDrive has twice the battery capacity of current BMW plug – in hybrids but remains the same physical size.

          • CDspeed says:

            Twice the capacity of which BMW hybrid it doesn’t say, and it doesn’t say the i3. I have noticed that Audi’s R8 e-Tron is supposed to have the same physical size battery as the test car but a greater capacity. And the upgraded Tesla Roadster battery is also the same physical size as before but ups the range to nearly 400 miles. There is definitely a new battery chemistry that the auto makers seem to know about.

          • iDriver says:

            I had also understood from earlier articles that this concept has a 20 kWh battery – which is indeed about twice the size of current BMW plug-in hybrid batteries (e.g. X5 e-drive has 9 kWh). Nevertheless, stating that it can do 600 km “mostly electric’ when in reality only 100 km at best will be electric, is not very truthful.
            The main issue for me is, like others have mentioned here and on other forums, that BMW seems to be releasing several articles/interviews lately that would indicate they have got cold feet about building more BEVs (Klaus Froehlich interview about no i model before 2020, MINI Superleggera confirmed but not as all-electric, launching on the other hand several plug-in hybrids with deplorable e-range). Not sure whether that is true or misleading info to fool competitors or ?
            If Audi is apparently using cylindrical cells for the 90+ kWh battery of the R8 e-tron (similar battery cells to Tesla) but sourced from Samsung SDI (also BMW supplier), it is hard to believe that BMW would not be able to put a similar pack in the “thing” (or any new i model) and make it all-electric and even more powerful with a very decent range.

          • CDspeed says:

            They really should have built two Things, since the Power eDrive is an experiment I doubt it would have been too difficult to build a second all electric version. But I too get the sense that they’ve gone cold on the subject of BEVs, which kind of puts BMWi on hold. It’s as though they dropped the i3 on the market and then went off to do something else. The build up to the launch of the i brand to me looked like they were jumping into the electric car market, and looking to be a dominant player. But who knows, everything could change if they suddenly debuted an all electric concept at an up coming auto show. But if they don’t do anything until 2020 like they’ve said, and then all the next i car turns out to be is a big hybrid they will loose to Tesla who will probably be producing the Model 3 by then.

    • jack says:

      A waste of who’s time? Tell that to the hardworking BMW engineers and their support team. BMW might not be as glamorous as the Tesla Cult these days. If you are nice enough, forward your comment to the BMW team so they can be enlightened and will thank you for not running their company to the ground.

      • CDspeed says:

        When I say waste of time I’m referring to it being a hybrid, which will eventually be replaced by fully electric cars anyway. I wasn’t accusing BMW engineers of wasting company time.

    • jack says:

      Also you say maintenance is reduced to “almost nothing”? Do you have a specific figure for a specific model of car, and tell us where you derived it from?

      • CDspeed says:

        I own an i3, which also serves as my user photo, my first scheduled service isn’t until 07/2016, and my second scheduled service isn’t until 2020. Charging it costs me virtually nothing, I had calculated a full charge on my power service at $2.80, but that is only if I charged it from absolute dead, which it never is. Compared to my 2010 550i GT, my i3 is extremely cheap to own. And most electric cars are the same, including the Tesla, that I’m looking to replace my 5-series with.

      • Alan Dean Foster says:

        I have 15,000 miles on my model S. Maintenance in the 18 months I’ve owned it consisted of replacing the 12v battery and rotating the tires every 6,000 miles. That’s it.
        No, wait…they did replace the wipers.
        No temp gauge to check while driving. No oil pressure to watch. It’s hard to put a price on these intangibles.

    • jack says:

      “And with Tesla’s expansive SuperCharger network, why would you opt for a gasoline engine over free rapid charging?”

      Why opt for gasoline or hybrid in 2015?

      The fact that Tesla vehicles are luxury cars is probably one reason.

      The fact that the expansive SuperCharger network will be useless to people that are not in reach of its fabled omnipresence could be another reason. You also have to remember that the world doesn’t magically end at USA borders.

      There are other choices besides Tesla if price, if its blatant Jaguar rip off-styling annoys you, or other reasons. But for those EV owners, it will be even harder to find charging stations unless Tesla opens their chargers to other manufacturers…agreeing on standards take time.

      • CDspeed says:

        Let’s not forget that your on a BMW related site, a lot of people can’t afford a 6 or 7-series. But those who can could afford to look at a Tesla. Also I think we can both agree that BMW is the top sports sedan builder in the world. I’d simply like to see them chase Tesla because who right now builds an awesome all electric sports sedan…….Tesla. BMW should take a stab at Tesla so they can apply their sports sedan knowledge, and build an equal or better electric sports sedan. On the SuperCharger subject, yes it’s a perk only for Tesla owners, but by developing their own standard Tesla has been free to install them at a dizzying pace. BMW could do the same with CCS, and they are just not as fast as Tesla. In the end I know BMW can do it, I’m rooting for them, but like I’ve said why not build an all electric “Thing” so in 2020 they’d be ready to take on Tesla? Who knows, maybe they are working on something, but right now all we’ve heard about are hybrids.

  6. jason bourne says:

    Why choose the GT for this eDrive prototype? What an ugly dog of a car.

    • Icebreaker says:

      i love the GT

      • Mike Vella says:

        I like it, too.
        I had a 335 GT for a loaner a while back and thought it was cool. My wife on the other hand thought like Jason and said it was ugly.
        Guess that’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.

  7. Don says:

    Posting this comment to circumvent your lack of research. Recently Tesla and BMW made a deal to exchange carbon fiber for (Tesla’s) battery technology

  8. jeremy says:

    Elon Musk’s face is so punchable. I hope BMW and other car markers run Tesla to the ground. Haha.

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