BMW hedging its bets for electrification

BMW i8 Hybrid sports car. — AFP pic
BMW i8 Hybrid sports car. — AFP pic

FRANKFURT, Aug 9 — Some automakers have firmly nailed their colours to the mast when it comes to how they see the future going in terms of how vehicles will be powered. But BMW has chosen to stay flexible.

While some carmakers, like Toyota, have chosen to focus on hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology, others are very much committed to going entirely electric with no help from internal combustion whatsoever.

Then there are some manufacturers who have barely dipped their toe into the world of electrification for now.

But it appears BMW has chosen a different and considerably more expensive option: To commit to offering all its core models in electric, hybrid and combustion variants. Although that sounds like an incredibly difficult way to go, the German auto giant believes all three varieties can be produced on the same assembly line.

Rather than an example of indecisiveness or profligacy on BMW’s part, the thinking behind the move is a lot more logical and inspired than it might first appear.

The key word here is flexibility. That’s because with electric, hybrid and conventional forms of the same vehicle being produced on the same assembly line, the manufacturer has the opportunity to respond quickly, effectively and efficiently to changing whims in the market.

BMW CEO Harald Krueger explained, “Nobody knows how many electric vehicles you’ll sell in 2020, 2021 and 2025. You don’t know how many plug-in hybrids you will sell, and you don’t know how many combustion engines you will sell. The only answer is flexibility (to) deliver all three.”

The company would be able to minimise or even eradicate downtime in factories, which occurs when customer demand differs from the manufacturer’s forecasts.

Of course, BMW will be forced to “future-proof” its vehicle platforms so they can handle electrified powertrains as well as internal combustion engines.

The 3 Series and X3 crossover are among the first models to be offered with all types of available propulsion systems. An electric 3 Series will arrive in 2019 or 2020 after the next major redesign, when the X3 and 3 Series will have moved to BMW’s highly flexible CLAR cluster architecture. — AFP-Relaxnews

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