BMW plans to build all its future cars on a single, electric-focused platform. The automaker showed its ideas for sustainable, premium transportation with its iVision Circular concept car. Development chief, Frank Weber, talked about these topics and more during a roundtable at the IAA Munich auto show that included Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri.
BMW unveiled the iVision Circular concept car at the IAA Munich auto show. What do you hope to demonstrate with the concept?
We want to do more with less, hence the small form. The concept shows the level of premium possible in a 4-meter package. We also want to show that sustainable, premium transportation in the future will not require sacrifice. Things become simpler, more digital, more reduced.
With the iVision there is an inherent sustainable aspect that almost speaks for itself. You take it for granted that our premium product is a highly digital product, and we believe this is fulfilling future premium needs of our customers.
Battery-electric vehicles will never be sustainable if we do not manage the entire value chain. You cannot have 600 or 700 kilograms of battery cells and high voltage batteries and say this is sustainable.
The way you are going to recycle and get this material back into the value-chain circle is more important, and so we have to think about the design of components and vehicles upfront. By the way, 95 percent of our vehicles can be recycled already today.
Regarding materials, does it mean that you have to invest more in research and development?
What will happen is a trend back to more individual solutions, which means we have optimized our vehicle structures for mass. We have to be a bit heavier, but you can also have a steel body that complies with all safety regulation.
BMW is creating a new electric-focused architecture for its entire range called the Neue Klasse (New Class). How will that work?
Everything from 2 Series to the X7 will be based on a single architecture. The most important thing to keep components common is the building principle. The electric drivetrain is always in the same position, whether it's a small vehicle or a large vehicle.
There will be longer batteries and shorter batteries and the vehicles will have different widths. But the width difference on vehicles today is just 120 mm between the smallest and the largest. There is a limit to what the absolute smallest vehicle can be. But it can be completely covered.
Does that mean any production line building a Neue Klasse vehicle can make any body style? Will you have total manufacturing flexibility?
Yes. If you compare it with our production today, our production people love the idea of one way of assembling vehicles. It will make our production system even more flexible. There are more tricky things than this, such as digital and e-mobility.
With digital updates, we run them on a monthly or quarterly basis, but at one point you say, I don't just want to do an update, I really want to do a significant enhancement. So how do you do that? We must define the end of a vehicle in the future as a digital device. What happens in 15 years in the cyber world? We are currently thinking about what defines the end of a vehicle, and can you digitally decouple it so that the vehicle still drives? But you have to take it offline.