BMW South Africa held its first-ever electro mobility (e-mobility) stakeholder summit in George, Western Cape, recently as part of a drive to begin unpacking the future of e-mobility domestically.
The week-long event was attended by groups of business and motoring media as well as government officials and corporate executives. During the event, delegates got the opportunity to experience some of the BMW Group’s existing alternative drivetrain products such as the MINI E, BMW Active E and BMW ActiveHybrid models.
Addressing delegates at the summit, Guy Kilfoil, GM for Group Communications and Public Affairs at BMW South Africa, says that the BMW Group had already led the marathon on e-mobility since the 1970s with the BMW 1602e, the first BMW electric car produced by the BMW Group for the 1972 Munich Olympics and to respond to the ongoing oil crisis in the Middle East.
This car had an output of 32kW and driving range of 30km.
“As a dynamic and performance oriented company, we asked ourselves how we would survive in an era where fuel and resources were becoming scarce,” says Kilfoil.
He adds that with EfficientDynamics, the BMW Group had integrated a highly effective package of efficiency enhancing measures across its entire product range.
“Between 1995 and 2010, the technology package brought Co2 emissions from new BMW Group vehicles sold in the EU-15 states down by 30%. Today, our fleet has an average fuel consumption of 5,4 litres of diesel or 6,6 litres of petrol per 100km.
“Average Co2 emissions stand at 148g per kilometre. We view these successes as encouraging. But at the same time, we realise that they represent no more than a first step in our comprehensive strategy to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.”
Kilfoil highlighted that various global trends such as urbanisation, environment, economics, growth and globalisation as well as culture and customer expectations were the driving forces regarding the future of sustainable mobility.
“The BMW Group is investing continuously in new, fuel-efficient, low emissions technologies that will benefit its customers as well as the environment. Our work in this area is one step ahead of regulations for the automotive industry. Already, more than 90% of the vehicles we sell around the world are covered by Co2, fuel consumption and tax legislation.
“However, different target values for different regions, varying measurement cycles and methods represent a major challenge for all automotive producers.”
At the summit, delegates were given a glimpse of results from the BMW Active E and MINI E’s first key learning project and field trials. The MINI E field trials, which took place in the United States of America (USA), Germany and Great Britain, showed that the vehicle usage only differed marginally from that of comparable MINI Cooper and BMW 116i users.
Limitations for the range and charging times were anticipated prior to the test and during the actual experiment these were only perceived as limitations by a very small number of customers.
“The data collected showed that a Megacity Vehicle with a range of 160 kilometres and expanded interior space would meet virtually 100% of the mobility needs of urban drivers,” Kilfoil says.
He says that in terms of the BMW Active E, the purpose was to approve the new electric powertrain and battery system as the car was the next step from a conversion vehicle to a purpose built vehicle. The entire electric power train of the BMW Active E is an in-house development and will be used in the upcoming BMW i3.
The BMW Active E, which is produced at the Leipzig plant, has enabled the BMW Group to gain more experience with the engineering of electric vehicles, the strengths and weaknesses during operation, the charging infrastructure and application of renewable energy.
The car is being used in field trials in countries such as the USA, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan, South Korea and China.
Furthermore, the BMW Active E field trial results showed it is clear that future users of electric vehicles appreciate the potential of combining renewable energy with electric vehicles.
This is one of the reasons the BMW i3 will have a high recycled material content: 25% of the thermoplastic components by weight will be replaced by recycled and renewable materials, while 10% of the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the Life module will also be recycled. The use of recycled CFRP in this form is currently unique.
The BMW i3 will be launched internationally this year followed by the BMW i8 in 2014 under BMW’s sub-brand, BMW i and will show the potential range of BMW i principles being applied to two completely different vehicle concepts. Both these vehicles will be launched in South Africa in 2014.
The BMW i3 – previously known as the Megacity Vehicle – will be the BMW Group’s first series-produced car for urban areas to be driven by electric power alone. The BMW i8, meanwhile, is based on the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept study. Its plug-in hybrid drive blends the sporting ability of a high-performance machine with the fuel consumption and emissions of a small car.
“With the BMW i sub-brand, we are opening up new target groups for the company and positioning the parent brand BMW even more strongly as a sustainable and forward-looking brand.
“When we introduce the BMW i3 and BMW i8 in South Africa next year, they will demonstrate that indeed BMW i stands for visionary vehicles and mobility services, inspiring design and a new understanding of premium that is more strongly defined in terms of sustainability,” concludes Kilfoil.