BMW already offers capable electric models with the i4 sedan and iX SUV, both introduced within the past year. But the automaker plans to push the capability limits further along, specifically when it starts to introduce its first electric models bearing the M badge, reserved for the company’s high-performance division.
Yesterday, the division showed off a test model equipped with a four-motor electric drivetrain and a chassis control system designed to direct power where it's needed. The testing of the hardware and software systems is part of the process of preparing the division's future electric vehicles.
The model tested is based on the i4 M50, but it includes elements from the M3 and M4 to improve cooling and torsional rigidity, as well as to make room for the electric motors, hence the domed fenders. There are two motors on each axle, allowing individual control of each wheel.
The approach is roughly reminiscent of the famous wheel-motor developed by Hydro-Quebec in the early 1990s.
Obviously, this level of control allows for precise and infinitely variable torque distribution. By using various sensors, combined with the settings desired by the designers, the torque distribution can be optimized according to the conditions, for example by providing extra grip on slippery surfaces or by helping the vehicle remain stable during cornering.
At the same time, the powertrain is designed to deliver linear power, which the M division considers a key feature of its products. Explained BMW head of development Dirk Haecker via a statement:
“Electrification opens up completely new degrees of freedom for us to create M-typical dynamics,”, said in a statement. “And we can already see that we can exploit this potential to the maximum, so that our high-performance sports cars will continue to offer the M-typical and incomparable combination of dynamics, agility and precision in the locally emission-free future.”
- Dirk Haecker, head of development for BMW
BMW M has not specified when the first electric M will arrive. It’s expected that the next M5 will offer an electric configuration, alongside a traditional format, and there are also rumors of an all-electric car based on the M2.
If recent history at BMW is any indication, we can expect to see all-electric products coexist with vehicles that still have gasoline engines. BMW is going all out with electrification, but wants to keep meeting the needs and wants of many of its loyal consumers.