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bmw-13-chargingA movement to reduce air pollution and encourage alternative fuel transportation to National Parks has been launched by the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, Department of Energy, and BMW of North America. The first of up to 100 electric vehicle charging stations in national parks and nearby communities has just been launched at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

An integrated team from the public-private partnership is identifying park locations for more charging stations, taking into consideration distance from nearby charging locations, natural and cultural landscape considerations, and proximity and strength of EV markets. Already, dozens of parks are exploring site options. This partnership supports the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

bmw-i3-sideThe BMW i8, the second milestone model to emerge as part of BMW’s innovative ‘i’ sub-brand, earned the distinction as Green Car Journal’s 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ at the recent Washington Auto Show in the nation’s capital. There are compelling reasons for this.

BMW’s flagship i8 not only breaks new ground in defining how a high performance vehicle can achieve environmental goals, but it does so in ways that do not impose limitations on the driving experience. Importantly, this car fits BMW's ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ image while providing levels of environmental performance increasingly appealing to those buying aspirational vehicles.

bmw-i8-gull-wing-doors-upBMW i8 LIFEDRIVE ARCHITECTURE

Beneath its stunning, gull-winged body is BMW’s innovative LifeDrive modular architecture. The Life module is essentially the i8's 2+2 passenger compartment constructed primarily of strong and lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), created with carbon fiber manufactured at a dedicated SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC facility in the State of Washington. The result of a joint venture between SGL Group and BMW Group, this manufacturing plant strengthens the i8’s environmental credentials further by producing carbon fiber using renewable hydroelectric energy.

The i8’s aluminum Drive module contains the gasoline engine, lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor, and associated electronic components. It uses a 228 horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine to power the rear wheels through a six-speed direct shift transmission. Front wheels are driven by a 129 horsepower electric motor and two-stage automatic gearbox. Energy is supplied by a 7.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located within a tunnel between the two front seats. It can be fully charged in just an hour and a half.

i8-rolling-chassisPower can be provided solely by the electric motor for about 22 miles of zero-emission driving at speeds up to 75 mph. Together, the rear-mounted engine and front electric motor deliver all-wheel drive performance with a combined maximum power of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Drivers are afforded the latest in advanced on-board electronics and safety systems expected in this class of vehicle.

Driving the i8 at speed provides a clear understanding of just what BMW has accomplished with its lightweight, high-tech luxury sports coupe. Green Car Journal editors found the i8’s handling superb and performance exhilarating. BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control allows choices of eDRIVE, ECO PRO, SPORT, and COMFORT drive settings. In Sport mode, the i8 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and deliver a top speed of 155 mph. Driving range is 310 miles under normal driving conditions. Engine overrun and regenerative braking are used to charge the battery pack and a start-stop feature helps conserve energy.

bmw-i8-cabinThe BMW i8 blends thrilling performance, innovative design, and environmental achievement in an exceptional luxury sports coupe, while offering a combined EPA city/highway battery electric efficiency rating of 76 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Its DNA is 'green' by nature and design, making it a natural selection for 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™.

DC Fast ChargeExpanding the driving range capabilities of electric cars through fast charging is of growing interest. Tesla has keyed in on this with its high-profile Supercharger network of fast chargers along major transportation corridors. While this is great for Tesla owners, it’s not a comfort to drivers of other EVs since the SuperCharger network is not compatible with their cars.

Enter ChargePoint, VW, and BMW, which have joined together to offer similar capabilities for other electric vehicle models. The three are developing express electric vehicle charging corridors with fast charging stations that allow EV drivers to recapture up to an 80 percent charge in just 20 minutes. Fast charging sites will be strategically spaced no more than 50 miles apart to make longer trips possible for EVs that incorporate a DC fast charging capability.

Initial efforts will focus on heavily-traveled routes on the East and West Coasts, providing 100 DC fast chargers at existing ChargePoint sites. The aim is to expand fast charging capabilities to other sites within the ChargePoint network, which already offers more than 20,000 charging spots in North America. EV drivers can access the network with a ChargePoint or ChargeNow card or with the ChargePoint mobile app.

bmw-i3-production-aRace car designers go to extreme measures to make competition vehicles as light as possible. Lighter is faster. It’s simple physics; less horsepower is required to accelerate a light vehicle compared to a heavy one. So on a given amount of horsepower, a lighter race car will be faster than one that weighs even a few pounds more. It also takes less energy to slow the car, providing better braking performance. A lighter car will generally handle better, too, since there is less mass working on the chassis through the corners.

Lighter vehicles are also more environmentally friendly since they require less energy to move from point A to point B. Shaving a few hundred pounds off a car design can yield major improvements in fuel economy. In addition to improved mileage, electric vehicles will see longer range between charges if they can be made lighter.

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Trimming pounds off a production car is not as easy as it seems, however. Today’s road worthy vehicles must feature hundreds of pounds of federally mandated safety equipment that wasn’t required or available a few decades ago. Equipment like antilock brake systems, multiple airbags, advanced computer controls, and crash mitigating high-strength body structures all add weight to a vehicle design. Pile on the comfort and convenience equipment that most new car buyers expect in a modern car or light truck and the extra bulk adds up fast.

That’s why vehicle designs like the new BMW i3 and i8 are so intriguing. These models are revolutionary for mass production vehicles, featuring clean sheet designs that found BMW designers throwing traditional materials and production methods out the window, resulting in lightweight electric-drive cars with maximum strength for safety.

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For example, the i3’s primary body and chassis structure are composed of two separate units that form what BMW calls the LifeDrive architecture. The primary body structure is the Life module and the Drive module incorporates the powertrain components. The passenger cell module is made from Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, or CFRP. This is the first ever use of CFRP in a mass production vehicle. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is every bit as strong as steel yet is 50 percent lighter. When you can trim half the weight off something as large as a body structure, you are talking major weight savings.

Aluminum has been used as a lightweight material in the transportation industry for many years. The i3’s rear Drive module that houses the electric drive motor, rear suspension, and optional range extending gasoline engine is made of aluminum. While both are light and strong, Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is even 30 percent lighter than aluminum. Materials throughout the i3 were selected for their weight saving properties and for their sustainability characteristics.

bmw-i3-doors-openBeneath the flat floor (there is no transmission tunnel) of the i3 is a space-saving 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that tips the scales at 450 pounds. Power is delivered by a hybrid synchronous electric motor. The motor produces 170 horsepower with 184 lb-ft torque and can spin up to 11,400 rpm. The compact electric motor offers immediate torque and weighs just 110 pounds. With a curb weight of just 2,700 pounds, the i3 is nimble and great fun to drive. As in racing, automakers strive to save weight because it gives them a competitive edge. Sometimes, less is more.

What does Silicon Valley, California have in common with Leipzig, Germany?  They are both home to the most innovative, technically advanced, and possibly the most significant cars of the 21st century. The Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 are the cars that have defied experts who said they couldn't be built. While the key innovations for each of these cars are different, the innovative spirit is the same.

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With the Model S, Tesla created a breakout electric car out of mostly existing technology. What Tesla did better than other new entrant was put it together, what Silicon Valley calls ‘systems integration,’ into a remarkable package. With obsessive attention to detail and high standards for performance and styling, Elon Musk has emerged as the Steve Jobs of the auto industry and proven countless naysayers wrong.

With the i3, BMW created an affordable car out of an innovative material, carbon fiber, or technically speaking, ‘carbon fiber reinforced plastic.’ BMW has found a way to apply its manufacturing know-how to bring what was once an exotic material for supercars and fighter jets to an everyday car. Driven to not make just a ‘me too’ electric car, Ulrich Kranz, the father of the i3, has created a breakthrough car that, like the Model S, is receiving enthusiastic reviews from auto critics for its performance.

In the 20th century, the automobile shaped the world. In the 21st century, the world will shape the automobile. Today’s cars are a major source of urban air pollution, global warming emissions, and oil dependency.

Fortunately, there are those in the auto industry – like Mr. Musk and Dr. Kranz – who understand it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology innovation combined with visionary leadership can reinvent the automobile. Tesla’s Model S and BMW’s i3 prove that being more in balance with today’s global realities does not mean sacrificing what makes the auto industry great.

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BMW is planning to offer the i series of electric, plug-in hybrid, and range-extended electric vehicles beginning in late 2013. This entirely new model line will offer BMW’s usual focus on premium engineering and style, but critically, it will also feature a consistent focus on eco sustainability and urban living. BMW is serious enough about this to have worked with New York University to develop a report, ‘Urban Mobility in the 21st Century.’ The report finds that 80 percent of us drive less than 50 miles per day, and that by 2050 the world’s urban population will grow by 80 percent, from 3.5 billion to 6.3 billion. In short, BMW thinks we need cars that work in megacities and also don’t pollute.

The large volume, five-door i3 hatchback will be constructed of lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced plastic containing the i series ‘life’ passenger cell and ‘drive’ electric propulsion cell, powered by a 170 hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. A range-extender engine will be optional. In a departure for BMW, the i3 will have rear ‘coach doors’ hinged at the rear of the doors rather than the front, plus bench seats to make city living (and parking) easier.

The seductive, two seat i8 coupe/cabriolet combines the same lightweight engineering with a 131 hp electric motor driving the front wheels and a 223 hp, 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo gas engine at the rear. These powerplants can be used together or separately. The car’s combined 354 horsepower accelerates the i8 from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. The i8 also features an electric-only range of 20 miles, a top speed of 155 mph, and up to 80 mpg.

BMW’s long-term mobility plan seems a good one. It integrates lessons learned from data gleaned from its extensive Mini-E and ActiveE electric vehicle field trials and focuses on sustainable manufacturing, practicality, and pollution reduction in an entirely new series of vehicles. BMW’s new i series could be poised to make a huge impact on how electric vehicles are designed and built.

BMW will be debuting its Concept Active Tourer plug-in hybrid concept and clean diesel 328d model at the upcoming 2013 New York International Auto Show. Featuring a three-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor, the Concept Active Tourer is expected to achieve up to 95 mpg. It features a composite glass roof using suspended particle device technology that allows a driver the ability to darken or lighten the roof at will.

For the near-term, the 328d speaks to the expanding clean diesel movement in the U.S. as automakers increasingly look toward this high-efficiency propulsion technology to meet federal mpg goals and consumer desires for more efficient vehicles.

Powered by a TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine, the BMW 328d delivers 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, a combination capable of propelling the four-door sedan from 0 to 60 mph in a sprightly 7.2 seconds. Fuel efficiency is expected to be upwards of 40 mpg. Actual EPA estimates will be revealed closer to the model’s launch.

This combination of efficiency and power is important to the brand, as BMW buyers have come to expect performance levels that support the company’s well-known claim, ‘the ultimate driving machine.’ Offering a four-door 328 sedan that accomplishes both well will position the 328d very competitively in an expanding clean diesel market in the States.

Computer and communication technologies are proving important in helping motorists drive more intelligently and efficiently. These high-tech strategies are increasingly being used to complement the fuel economy and emissions reductions brought by improved powerplants and vehicle electrification. On the way to the federally mandated fleet fuel economy average of 54.5 mpg, all strategies and efficiency technologies become important.

Like many other automakers,  the BMW Group is investing large amounts in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies to make traveling  more efficient, safer, and more convenient. Recently, the BMW Group presented some of its latest innovations that are part of its BMW ConnectedDrive.

BMW's Mobility Assistant, currently being tested in Berlin, can help travelers chose the best way of traveling to a destination, especially in a congested city. This iPhone app can provide information on a variety of transportation options. When a destination is entered, the Mobility Assistant displays various routes to reach the destination cost-effectively and quickly – whether by car, public transportation, or a combination of modes.

Finding a place to park can waste fuel and time. BMW's ParkatmyHouse and ParkNow provide an answer by making it easier to locate parking spaces. ParkatmyHouse is for entrepreneurs and homeowners who want to rent parking spaces, with ParkatmyHouse parking spaces at more than 20,000 locations in the United Kingdom and over 150,000 registered drivers using them. With ParkNow, drivers can book parking spaces in advance through the ParkNow website or by using the ParkNow App for smart phones. There are currently 14 ParkNow locations in the San Francisco area.

The ability to travel in city traffic without constantly stopping and starting at traffic lights means calmer and safer driving while saving fuel and reducing emissions. BMW's Traffic Light Assistant communicates with traffic lights to obtain and evaluate their timing, and then informs a driver about the optimum speed to match traffic light timing. For instance, if the light at the next intersection is projected to be red if the driver doesn't change speed, the driver would be informed early enough to brake smoothly.

Getting stuck in a traffic jam can waste lots of fuel, not to mention being a source of frustration and  even lead to road rage incidents. ConnectedDrive-equipped BMWs with RTTI (Real Time Traffic Information) provides drivers with the latest information about traffic conditions, enabling drivers to select routes with less congestion, thus saving time, emissions, and fuel.      

Updated every three minutes, RTTI indicates five levels of traffic flow including flowing normally,  slow-moving traffic, heavy traffic, congested, or gridlocked.

BMW is also developing BMW ConnectedRide, a version of BMW ConnectedDrive for BMW motorcycles. Currently, the emphasis is on safety with features like Left Turn Assistant, Traffic Light Assistant, Collision Warning, and Traffic Sign Recognition. The motorcyclist would be alerted about adverse weather conditions like fog, rain, snow, and ice, which are all much greater hazards for motorcycle riders. The cyclist could also be warned about other hazards like an oil slick, loose gravel, potholes, or an obstacle in the road. Warnings could be presented via a heads-up display in the windscreen.

 

BMW's  Concept Active Tourer, a through-the-road plug-in hybrid, uses a front-mounted engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor to drive the rear, with no mechanical connection between the two. In most hybrids the output of the engine and motor are combined. The Concept Active Tourer is the first additional application of the eDrive sys­tem used in the i8, which incorporates an electric motor, lithium-ion battery, and intelligent engine control. BMW will use the eDrive designation for all its electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Like BMW’s latest four- and six-cyl­inder engines, the BMW Concept Active Tourer’s 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine uses BMW TwinPower turbo tech­nology. Even though it has only three-cylinders, BMW claims it is very smooth running even at low speeds and emits the sporty sound expected of a BMW.

The synchronous electric motor can power the car for up to 18 miles exclu­sively on a fully charged battery. It also augments the gasoline engine to provide over 190 horsepower when maximum power is required. BMW expects it will get an impressive 94 mpg, achieved partly through automatic engine start/stop and regenerative braking energy supplied the rear axle during deceleration. A high-volt­age generator connected to the 1.5-engine also charges the battery while driving.

BMW’s Concept Active Tourer has an ECO PRO mode to help reduce fuel con­sumption. When appropriate, it reduces air conditioning and other electrically powered creature comforts to increase fuel efficiency. Linked to the navigation system, ECO PRO mode gives drivers advice on how to reach a destination using minimum fuel. ECO PRO mode also completely shuts off the engine at speeds up to nearly 80 mph, and then decouples the engine from the drivetrain up to 100 mph to make full use of the kinetic energy already generated.

The Efficient Dynamics strategy uses information from the navigation system to optimize electric motor and battery ef­ficiency. For example, it calculates in ad­vance the most suitable driving situations and sections of a route for electric-only operation or to charge the battery. This optimized charging strategy can achieve an energy savings up to 10 percent and thus increase electric range.

While small on the outside, the Tourer is very roomy on the inside. It rides on a long 105 inch wheelbase and has an over­all length of 171 inches. A tall roof allows a raised seating position for an excellent all-around view. Batteries are located entirely beneath the floor so there’s no intrusion into passenger or cargo space.

Will the BMW Concept Active Tourer appear in dealer showrooms? BMW has a good track record for putting concept vehicles into production, so here’s hop­ing.