BMW at Frankfurt: 4 Series previewed, hydrogen power, and a bold e-mobility goal



The BMW Concept 4 coupe and a hydrogen drivetrain are the highlights of BMW’s Frankfurt presence

Frankfurt, Germany

The 2019 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show saw BMW making some strong statements about its future plans. 

Strong, and in the case of the BMW Concept 4, controversial as well. If you thought the front grilles on the X7 and facelifted 7 Series were yuuge, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. 

The Concept 4 previews the design of the second-generation 4 Series, a model line that was spun off from the 3 Series to give the range a more unique identity. And with this new model, it looks like the visual gulf between 3er and 4er will be bigger than ever.

According to BMW, the Concept 4 draws inspiration from the classic 1930s BMW 328 roadster and 1970s BMW 3.0 CSi coupe, with a vertically-oriented front grille that spans practically the entire height of the front end. 

Round the side and back of the car though, this Concept 4 is much more conventionally attractive, with eye-catching surfacing (especially in this deep metallic Forbidden Red), short overhangs and a low fastback roofline that sweeps into a little ducktail spoiler.

On the topic of the grille, Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design said in a statement, “The BMW Concept 4 presents a confident and classy take on this iconic feature, and offers a look ahead to the expressive face of the 4 Series range.” Here’s hoping that the production 4 Series won’t look quite so expressive when it’s revealed next year.

Previewing something that’s a bit further in the future was the BMW i Hydrogen Next concept, based on the X5. It’s part of a philosophy that expects our future transport to be powered by a variety of sources, rather than just electricity alone. Hydrogen is one of those solutions.

As far as the general public is concerned, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer the best of both the petrol and electric world: the silent and local emissions-free running of electric drive combined with the long range and short refuelling times of fossil fuels. The only stumbling block up till now has been the lack of infrastructure and the cost of producing the hydrogen itself.

That’s why BMW has partnered up with Toyota since 2013. In addition to co-developing the Z4 and Supra sports cars, the two companies have also been working together on hydrogen technology to research and test fuel cell drive systems and scalable, modular components for hydrogen vehicles.

BMW thinks that this technology could be consumer-ready by 2025 at the earliest, but concedes that infrastructure and market conditions will likely be the determining factors.

Interestingly, and ironically, this greenest and saintliest of X5s actually previews the hottest and dirtiest one of them all: the X5 M.

Reports have noted that the i Hydrogen Next’s aggressive front bumper closely resembles that of X5 M prototypes spotted testing, which is also similar to the just-launched-in-Singapore X3 M and X4 M. Expect 600hp or more from the turbocharged V8 shared with the M5 super saloon when the X5 M makes a possible debut next year.

Finally, at Frankfurt BMW also announced its goal to have 1 million electrified BMW Group vehicles on the road by the end of 2021. That includes both full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) as well as plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).

According to Oliver Zipse (below), Chairman of BMW AG, the company has delivered more electrified vehicles to customers in Germany than anyone else, while over in Norway, three quarters of all BMW Group cars have an electrified drivetrain. 

In the future, EV demand is going to swell in a big way. For example, by 2030 the company expects more than half of premium car sales in China to be BEVs.

BMW may have been the first luxury carmaker to bring an EV to market (the i3 city car), but other brands are now catching up with impressive new models, such as Jaguar with its I-Pace and Porsche with its new Taycan.

Still, BMW currently offers more electrified models than any other premium manufacturer, and is on course to have 25 different models available to car buyers by 2023, double today’s number.

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Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.