BMW’s M division is walking down an electric road, but the Bavarian go-fast department is trying to reassure customers its future cars will be both speedy and engaging.
Overnight M GmbH revealed an all-electric test vehicle featuring four motors. Based on the i4 M50 liftback, the M prototype has wider front and rear tracks, and as such is fitted with chunkier wheel arches at both ends.
With an electric motor for each wheel, the M division claims “ideal power transmission to the road” can be computed “within milliseconds” based on many factors, including steering, load, wheel speed, road conditions, and accelerator input.
M says the development drivetrain offers a “level of dynamics that is unattainable using conventional drive systems” while staying true to the division’s ethos over the last 50 years: “a linear build-up of drive power and lateral dynamics that permits controllable handling right up to the limits”.
Given its electric nature, efficiency is also important and, as such, the concept is able to use regenerative braking “right up to the limits of driving dynamics”.
According to the firm, it has already evaluated the drivetrain via virtual models and test benches, and this rolling prototype is the next step in the system’s development.
The concept car provides engineers real-world feedback, allows for fine-tuning of the hardware and software, and permits the development team to test the drivetrain in a wide variety of weather conditions, from baking hot deserts to snow fit for skiing.
Also, thanks to the car’s full complement of on-board measurement equipment, data from the concept can be fed back into BMW’s computer systems to improve future virtual models.
Although BMW has yet to provide any figures about its prototype quad-motor system, it should easily eclipse the two-motor setup used in the i4 M50, which makes a total of 400kW and 795Nm, and is capable of completing the 0-100km/h dash in 3.9 seconds.
It’s unclear if BMW is preparing this quad-motor drivetrain for a future variant of an existing CLAR-based model range, such as a fully fledged M variant of the i4, or whether we’ll have to wait for vehicles based on the upcoming Neue Klasse dedicated EV architecture.
There’s also a chance this drivetrain, or a later derivation of it, will end up in the long-rumoured BMW M electric supercar.
Earlier this week Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW M, told Autocar he’s “always trying to figure out how [to make a super-sports car] work”.
He admitted a dedicated electric supercar is “not priority number one, but from the heart it always has a high priority, and that’s what we are always looking at”.
The last time the M division publicly toyed with the idea of a spiritual successor to the M1 was in 2019 with the Vision M Next hybrid supercar.
Rumours from the period indicated the car was close to getting the green light, but was eventually cancelled due to low projected sales, and high development costs.
In the end BMW M decided to make the XM V8 plug-in hybrid crossover its second-ever standalone model.
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