Klaus Fröhlich – BMW’s R&D Chief – spoke with EngineeringNews about the future of the car industry. The development boss says BMW will be primarily working over the next 20 years on powertrains and digitalisation.
“Powertrains and digitalisation. These are our key challenges and they are more than enough,” Fröhlich said. Electrified powertrains are “clearly” one field where the German premium car manufacturer “has to invest a lot of resources”, notes Fröhlich. Yet he adds that diesel and petrol engines will still be around for the next 50 to 60 years.
Fröhlich believes the world is likely to have an electric vehicle (EV) population of around 10% in the next ten years, but within the next half century, most drivers will be behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. Fröhlich also explains that the engineering of a petrol or diesel engines – to deliver the best performance – can take “10 to 20 loops”. In contrast, the current plug-in hybrid system found in the BMW 740e is on its third iteration, with the fifth one already planned for launch in 2020.
“We have to go through these loops until we have robustness; until we have costs under control,” explains Fröhlich.
BMW is not giving up on the development of petrol and diesel engines, adds Fröhlich. “We sell cars in 160 countries and I have to find a tailor-made solution for all of these markets without investing too much in different technologies.” The other challenge for the German engineers is to account for different packages fitting in the same chassis – take the new 7 Series, for example, with its conventional engines and eDrive platform.
“It has to be modular. I have to find a way for it to work,” says Fröhlich. “We have defined a certain cell standard millimeter height so that we can build new batteries in 50 years that have the same cell standard, even if the chemistry and energy density will be very different. This means that, when your car fails after 15 years and you go to a BMW shop to have a new battery fitted, you can do so.”