What’s the next step for BMW?

What’s the next step for BMW? How about energy management? According to Klaus Borgmann, senior v.p. Powertrain Development at BMW, the company has created an Energy Management Dept. tasked with the job of reevaluating how energy is used around the vehicle. “It’s a question of fuel use versus customer function,” says Borgmann, who suggests that waste heat from the exhaust system will be “brought back” to warm heat storage canisters used in cold-start conditions, or as part of a “turbo steamer” drive-assist device that creates steam to help power the engine. BMW continues to examine the use of solid-oxide fuel cells to take over the growing electrical consumption, and free the engine to do its primary function: drive the vehicle.

Borgmann believes gearbox efficiency will improve dramatically, but questions the move toward more gears. “This really depends on how good your engine is under partial load,” he says. “If it’s efficient under these conditions, you don’t need them. This also is part of the reason he believes you will never see a BMW with a CVT. “CVTs drive the engine within a predetermined map, and not necessarily where you want it to be under those conditions,” he says. “A CVT operates best with low revs and high loads, which works only if you have a less-efficient engine.” Instead of adding gears—or eliminating them entirely via a CVT—Borgmann says BMW’s next-generation gearboxes will be fairly conventional. He expects a dramatic increase in dual-clutch gearboxes, which can increase fuel economy by as much as 4%, and his team is working with gearbox maker ZF to improve the dampers and oil pumps in conventional automatics. “This will allow us to close the clutches earlier,” says Borgmann, “without increasing ‘shift shock’ and improve economy 3% with gasoline engines and 6% with diesels.

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Though BMW has entered into an agreement with GM to license its dual-mode hybrid technology, Borgmann prefers hydrogen power over the long term. “Like a battery, hydrogen is an energy carrier,” he states, “but it has 100 times the range of the best batteries today. Though he is “not sure how the hydrogen fuel cell story ends,” Borgmann is a supporter of hydrogen as a fuel for internal combustion engines. The fact that fossil fuels will not disappear overnight means the technology that has developed over the last 100-plus years will continue to be used as alternatives enter the picture. Creating a hydrogen-fueled 7 Series under normal development conditions, he believes, “taught us things we never would have learned under a research program environment, and set standards that will be useful,” should the technology ever be used in production vehicles.—CAS