The centerpiece of BMW's Frankfurt motor show stand will undoubtedly be its all new ultra-luxurious, very connected 7 Series. However, the German carmaker will also be using the event to continue honoring its commitment to greener, more environmentally conscious motoring with the launch of two new cars that use the company's ‘eDrive' plug-in hybrid technology -- the 330e compact executive sedan and the 225xe Active Tourer equally compact MPV.
What sets BMW's hybrids apart from say a Toyota Prius, is that as well as enabling greater fuel economy and electric-only driving for emissions-free traversing of urban areas, eDrive also enhances performance.
Just like in the current crop of hybrid hypercars -- the Ferrari LaFerrari, the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918 Spyder -- in BMW's family-oriented vehicles the electric and traditional motors work together for increased horsepower, faster acceleration off the line and for smooth progression right around the rev counter. Turbocharging an engine makes it more powerful without making it drink more fuel.
However, there is often a lag between depressing the accelerator and the car jumping into action as the turbos need time to spool up. With eDrive, the electric motor fills in these gaps so everything is always instantaneous and seamless. The technology also offers a boost function which, like in Formula One, will dump all power available to the driven wheels when immediate extra speed is a necessity, such as for motorway overtaking.
Yet both cars are capable of traveling at speeds of over 70mph (112km/h) on battery power alone and over a distance of over 30km before the lithium ion cells need recharging. This can be done via a standard socket at home or a dedicated charging station. Power from the traditional engine and energy recuperated under braking can also be used to top up while on the go, but not to fully replenish the cells during longer drives.
BMW was one of the first mainstream premium marques to start investing heavily in alternative fuel technology, from hydrogen fuel cells to full battery power and hybrid systems. However it is only over the past 18 months that the company has been bringing these developments to market in its cars.
This lateness to the party was due to solving the puzzle at the heart of the BMW brand -- how to build cars that are kinder to the environment but that still offer the serious driving dynamics on which the company's reputation was built?
It would seem that eDrive, which also incorporates weight-saving materials in vehicle construction and turbocharging technology is the solution to this quandary and by the end of the year there will be four eDrive hybrid cars available in the mainstream BMW range including an eDrive version of the new 7 Series.