Despite being at the forefront of electrification, BMW will continue to invest heavily in internal combustion engines for the foreseeable future.
“A best assumption of 30% of electrified sales (battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids) by 2025 means that at least 80% of our vehicles will have an internal combustion engine,” Klaus Froelich, BMW Group board member for development, said on the sidelines of the company's NextGen event in Munich this week.
BMW expects diesels to survive for at least 20 more years and gasoline engines for at least 30 years, Froelich said.
“We see areas without a recharging infrastructure such as Russia, the Middle East and the western, internal part of China so they will rely on gasoline engines for another 10 to 15 years,” Froelich said.
The costal part of China and big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will be battery-electric only in about 10 years, while Europe will be more receptive to plug-in hybrid vehicles, the executive predicted. In the U.S., battery-electric vehicles will sell mainly on the West Coast and on part of the East Coast but will not become mainstream. The U.S. could get more powerful plug-in hybrids from BMW’s sporty M subbrand in order to generate emissions credits.
“The shift to electrification is overhyped,” Froelich said. “Battery-electric vehiclescost more in terms of raw materials for batteries. This will continue and could eventually worsen as demand for these raw materials increases.”
While internal combustion engines are set to remain at BMW for a while, their portfolio will shrink drastically.
On the diesel side, the automaker will abandon the 1.5-liter three-cylinder unit. It will disappear because it is too expensive to get it to comply with Europe's tougher emissions standards. The engine is only offered in Europe.
In addition, BMW's 400-hp, six-cylinder diesel that is offered in the 750d upper-premium car won’t be replaced because it is too expensive and too complicated to build, Froelich said, adding that the engine has four turbochargers.
BMW will still continue to develop four- and six-cylinder diesels, but they will have no more than three turbos.
On the gasoline side, the days of the V-12 engine are numbered.
“Each year, we have to invest to update the V-12 to new emissions regulations, particularly in China,” Froelich said. “And when the V-12 accounts for about 5,000 sales a year globally, this includes Rolls-Royce, the cost of these updates is several thousand euros per unit.”
Surprisingly, the BMW executive also said the company is working on a business case to keep its V-8 gasoline engine.
“Six-cylinder units coupled with plug-in hybrid applications already deliver more than 500 kW (680 hp) of power and enough torque to destroy any transmission,” Froelich said.
The electrified V-8s are needed because normally aspirated, non-electrified units are hit with heavy taxes in markets such as the UK and France because of their high carbon dioxide output, Froelich said. The V-8 in the BMW 850i coupe emits more than 220 grams of CO2 per kilometer.