Right now, BMW is one of the leading auto manufacturers for electric vehicles. However, this is simply by default, as not many other automakers have electric vehicles. BMW just recently reached its 100,000 sales mark for electric vehicles, which isn’t that many in three years. Admirable, yes, but not all that impressive given the success of cars like the Tesla Model S. But BMW plans on selling that many EVs in 2017 alone, a feat it’s possible to accomplish, thanks to the upcoming MINI Countryman E and plug-in hybrid 5 Series. And by 2020, all BMW models will carry an electric variant. By 2025, BMW will be producing hydrodgen fuel-cell vehicles and autonomous technology.
This idea may frighten BMW fans. Most Bimmer fans cringe at the idea of their favorite Bavarian brand pushing electrons and tech, rather than I6 engines and smokey tires. However, BMW CEO Harald Krüger seems to feel that BMW can easily occupy both territories, saying that electrification can still provide “sheer driving pleasure.”
He has a point. Electric motors provide instantaneous thrust, far more so than any internal combustion engine could hope to achieve. That’s just fact. However, engines have the ability to provide power at the top end better than electric motors. So when you combine electric motors and turbocharged gasoline engines, you get a sort of endless and infinite-feeling powerband that’s actually quite infectious. Having just recently driven the new BMW 740e (review coming soon), I can tell you that hybrid powertrains are no joke.
But we already knew that. The BMW i8 has been proving Bimmer fans wrong about electric motors since its debut. The i8 provides incredible performance and genuine fun in a fuel-efficient, hybrid package. With only three cylinders, the i8 is as fast as a Porsche 911 Carrera (6 cyl. turbo) and a Corvette Stingray (8 cyl.). If that doesn’t change your mind on electric motors, I’m not sure what will.
The real fear for BMW fans is autonomy. The idea of a BMW driving itself instead of providing the “Ultimate Driving Machine” experience is one of blasphemy. However, BMW development chief Klaus Fröhlich seems to feel otherwise. Instead, he feels that an autonomous BMW will just offer drivers a choice to not have to deal with the more mundane aspects of driving. “It’s not fun to drive in heavy traffic. It’s not fun to be in a dense area and try to find parking,” said Fröhlich. “These autonomous abilities will be an option for the driver to choose, not the only mode. Our drivers will always have a choice, and our architectures can do both. It’s not rocket science. It’s not so difficult.”
So there you have it, Bimmer fans. Electrification and autonomy are coming but fear not. Neither the fun nor the performance will go away when they arrive.