BMW Research and Development – 25 year anniversary 1985 – 2010
January 1985 saw the creation of a vital sub-group within the BMW group. This was the research and development section or Forschung und Technik in plain German. One of the first projects was the concept Z1 roadster, which was so well received that limited production was approved. It was from this original Z1 concept that the Z3 and Z4 models were developed. You might ask “what happened to Z2?” Well, take a look at the prototype (also known as the Z1 coupé) to make up your own minds as to whether you think it should have gone into production or not.
Also on display at the BMW museum is the Z13 from 1993. This Aluminium and plastic sported three seats with the driver at centre front. The E1 was an electric car with a range of 200 km
The Z18 sported a V8 driving all four wheels with fat rubber, an elevated seating stance and flexible styling options- a beach buggy on steroids, while the sexiest of all was the Just 4/2 showcased in 1995 using minimal bodywork and a rear mounted, 1 000 cm3, 75 kW BMW in-line four cylinder motorcycle engine. What fun this would be to drive, even today?
In 2003 the decision was made to extend the scope of the group to concentrate on new technologies, not just designing concepts. Such elements as energy, the environment, raw materials, safety, social acceptance and cost became important considerations.
In recent years, the emphasis has steered towards efficiency, so the ActiveHybrid 7 and X6 concepts use an internal combustion engine combined with an electric motor. Researchers presented a hybrid vehicle based on the first generation of the BMW X5 in 2001, and this demonstrated the progress that had been made in the area of drive and energy-storage technology. The study combined an eight-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor to generate a maximum combined torque of 1000 Nm.
One of the innovations for electrical energy storage was the use of capacitors dubbed “supercaps” incorporated into the side sills. Examples of 3- and 5-series models are in use for on-going testing.
The Hydrogen 7 was put into limited series production in selected countries to demonstrate the possibility of using hydrogen as a motive source. Work continues to address the problems of hydrogen production and high-pressure storage. Other pioneering achievements were provided by the BMW H2R hydrogen record vehicle. In September 2004, the car powered by a twelve-cylinder engine set up nine international records for hydrogen-powered vehicles with a piston engine at the BMW test track in Miramas, France. The car achieved a top speed of more than 300 km/h.
Hydrogen fuel cells are also under scrutiny to produce electricity from electro-chemical reactions. Presently, smaller cells can be combined for use as an APU (auxiliary power unit) to operate the various electric motors and lights in a passenger car.
Getting to the ever-changing field of micro-electronics and computing minimization we find research moving into many directions.
One of these is Car2X that deals with the possibility of having vehicles communicate with each other as well as relevant inputs such as traffic light sequences. So, if the timing of a traffic light is about to turn amber or red, the system could inform you, according to the position and speed you are travelling, that you would be able to make it, or whether you should start braking. Also possible would be a warning if some other vehicle is approaching that may cause a dangerous incident. As a manufacturer of cars and motorcycles, the BMW Group is in the special position of being able to integrate both types of vehicle in the communication scenarios. The team in Palo Alto also combined with Apple to develop an iPhone application for the BMW Concept ActiveE vehicle. Important information concerning your car such as battery and alarm status can be transmitted to your phone, particularly relevant to electric vehicles relying on battery power.
On the sportier side is the Track Trainer that uses digital mapping, GPS and video to accurately map racing circuits with overlays of ideal racing lines to train drivers.
On a slower tack, the Garage Parker allows automated parking of cars in a multi storey car park.
Heads-Up Display is something being developed by the team in Palo Alto near Silicon Valley in California and is already used in some production models and can even be incorporated into sunglasses ( as used in yachting for the America’s Cup with the BMW Oracle racing team).
Another exciting technology is combining activities such as purchasing items or booking tickets or hotels by using your car’s smart key that is personalized to the owner, not just the vehicle. So the BMW Technik GmbH team continues to look ahead to the future of motoring on our planet.