MUNICH - The new Z22 ultra-light station wagon concept provides a close insight into BMW's high-tech future.
The five-seater Z22 - unveiled earlier this month - is about the same size as a current 3 series, and has the performance of a top-of-the-range 5 series, says BMW. Moreover, the Z22 is claimed to consume only six liters of fuel per 100km.
The Z22 is a product of BMW Technik GmbH, the Bavarian car manufacturer's advanced engineering and design center. The Z22 project was unveiled as part of BMW Technik's 15th anniversary celebrations.
BMW Technik says the Z22 is intended as a technology showcase and should not be judged merely on its looks.
The Z22 contains 70 innovations that will influence BMW's future production cars. BMW Technik has applied for 61 patents to cover its advanced technology.
One of the key features of the Z22 is its lightness - compared with steel, weight has been reduced by 50 percent. The car has an aluminum chassis frame and a carbon fiber and aluminum body.
The Z22's one-piece passenger-cell side panel is made out of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, the same material used in Formula One racecar chassis. The side panel weighs just 19kg. The floorpan, roof, tailgate and parts of the doors are also made out of carbon fiber reinforced plastic.
The Z22's entire body is made up of 20 pieces, compared with about 80 for a current BMW 3 series. This will significantly reduce build time, says BMW Technik.
Mechatronic is another key technology of the future that is being evaluated on the Z22. Mechatronic is BMW Technik's term for 'mechanical system with electronic control.'
By-wire technology is present in the Z22's steering system as well as in the brake components. Advantages are in the reduction of components such as the steering column and parts of the brake pedal mechanism.
The Z22's electronic steer-by-wire system, for example, means a mechanical link between the steering wheel and the front wheels is no longer required. Instead, a steering wheel sensor transmits signals to electric motors that operate the steering rack.
Further innovations include fingerprint technology for door access and authorization to drive; electromagnetic locks; swiveling headlights that turn in the direction of the car; cameras instead of mirrors; and head-up display instruments.
BMW Technik says the first production BMW to use the Z22's technology will arrive on the market within five years.