Head of electrification sub-brand says his division is where engineering boundaries are pushed.
When you see the final result of years of engineering and testing, it’s easy to overlook the perceived risks that a company undertakes any time it steps either outside its comfort zone, or into a new area of development.
Australian journalists assembled for the Paris motor show asked two of the most obvious questions surrounding BMW’s i brand – where was the Vision iNext concept, and how risky is it to put that much tech into a single vehicle?
Dr. Robert Irlinger – Head of BMW i responded by saying that i is where the risks are taken, regardless of the model you’re discussing. “i brand is where the risk starts,” Irlinger said. “To answer your question about where the iNext is, there was so many things to show you here at Paris, so we will show the Vision iNext in Los Angeles in November.”
Why then is the whole i division a risk in the BMW structure?
“You can always say BMW i is a high risk strategy so in the end the iNext is also a little bit of high risk strategy,” Irlinger said. “We bring new features and technology before we spread them out to the masses. With the i3, it was electrification, or the i8 plug-in hybrid with a three-cylinder. That was taking a little bit of a risk, but with innovation always comes risk.”
BMW i-badged vehicles then are something of a pioneering force for the rest of the range, a place engineers can create products the market may not even have thought of yet, with technology we will soon come to demand across the board.
“If we have success in i brand, then we have to spread that success,” Irlinger said. “The iNext bringing all that innovation into one car is high risk in that there’s so much there. It has the newest level of powertrain, automated driving, connected services, communication as well. Normally if you combine all that technology, something happens. The amount of things new you do at once, raises the complexity.”
The big step for iNext won’t just be the way its power is generated, but also how you’ll be able to use it as the driver. iNext will have the latest version of Level 3 automation. Crucially too, it will explore denser battery packs, and therefore a more impressive real-world, electric driving range – the current bugbear for hesitant buyers.
“We will be able to have a real-world range of 500km within five years,” Irlinger said. Battery technology will change too, but in Irlinger’s mind, the batteries we understand now, will be with us for some time yet. “Definitely, classical lithium ion technology will continue up to 2025,” he said.