A circular, renewable production cycle, new range of electric vehicles, CO2 reduction targets, and the Neue Klasse electric car platform are all in the works
BMW’s i Vision Circular concept, now on show at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, or IAA, in Munich, isn’t an end product in itself, said Pieter Nota, a member of the board of management of BMW AG.
Nota, who oversees Customer, Brands, and Sales at BMW AG, explained that the i Vision Circular concept car is a compilation of ideas that will allow brands under the BMW umbrella to work towards all of their sustainability targets in the decade ahead.
He clarified that the i Vision Circular is also not a true preview of the brand’s upcoming Neue Klasse electrified platform due for completion in 2025 and which will underpin a whole new line of BMW electric vehicles moving forwards. The Neue Klasse name is actually a revival of a category that existed in the 1962 through to 1977, and were instrumental in establishing BMWs as credible sports sedans.
In a media roundtable teleconference held on the first day of the IAA, Nota explained this and also outlined a few key plans for the BMW group, including the target to have 50 percent of all BMW group cars sold, which includes Mini and Rolls-Royce, to be fully electric by 2031.
“The i Vision Circular concept car is a demonstration that technologically, it is now possible to build a vehicle that is composed almost completely of secondary and renewable raw materials. It is also almost 100 percent recyclable when it reaches the end of its useful life,” Nota explained.
An example of how renewability needs to be built into the product is with the steering wheel of the i Vision Circular. It is what Nota calls a ‘mono-material’ component. “It’s the little things that matter, and when you have the usual leather-wrapped steering wheels it causes headaches at the recycling plant because it’s incredibly hard to separate the materials for clean recycling,” he detailed.
“By building the steering wheel from just one material, there is no need for further processing, which can get very costly, when we recycle a car. For BMW, the challenge is also how to retain the premium feel in the product while making it as renewable as possible downstream.”
Currently, BMW Group cars comprise around 30 percent secondary materials in their construction, and this is set to rise up to 50 percent by 2030. It has boldly laid out its targets for the decade ahead: a 40 percent reduction in CO2 production across the entire build cycle of its cars, with the cars themselves having their combined CO2 emissions cut by 80 percent. That will happen alongside the goal to shift 10 million new cars over the next 10 years, with 50 percent being electric vehicles.
The upcoming BMW i4, the brand’s first all-electric sedan, is also a precursor of a whole new range of i Series cars that are to come. While BMW’s arch-rival Mercedes-Benz may seem to have gotten a head start with news of the EQA, EQE and EQB electric cars all on the way, it was revealed that BMW already has the roadmap for its electric fleet over the next decade. It was confirmed that there will be an electric variant for almost every BMW model available, and that they will be defined by the ‘i’ model name. The upcoming electric 7 Series arriving in 2022 for example, will be the i7, followed by the i5 electric sedan in 2023.
Meanwhile there’s also the BMW iX, the brand’s tech showcase vehicle and set for launch sometime next year.
BMW is not ready to give up on internal combustion engines yet though, as it was acknowledged that there are many parts of the world that would not have the battery-charging infrastructure in place for some time to come.
Interestingly, Nota mentions that hydrogen fueled cars are likely to become relevant worldwide by around 2025, when the technology is more developed. The claim is that quicker refueling and efficiency at powering larger vehicles will make hydrogen power advantageous for goods transport trucks.
BMW has revealed that it has a hydrogen fuel-cell X5 used for developmental tests, but it has yet to reveal long-term plans for hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars. The Hyundai Group in South Korea meanwhile, has just announced its plans for hydrogen powered commercial vehicles.
While plug-in hybrid vehicles have a limited following in Singapore, they continue to do well for BMW in larger countries. According to official reports, 11 percent of BMW’s total sales volume were either electric or plug-in hybrid in the first half of 2021. “We found that plug-in hybrids have found a following with people that use electric power for the commutes to and from work, then when they travel further during weekends, they switch over to using the petrol engine in the car,” Nota revealed.
The company aims to sell one million hybrid vehicles worldwide by the end of 2021. As of now, it’s already passed the 800,000 mark.
Further revelations include a confirmation that by 2030, Mini will become a fully electric brand. The plan was first mentioned in early 2021, and now confirmed. It’s still a decade away now, but this does mean that within two generations the rip-roaring John Cooper Works Minis with their turbo four-pots are going to roll into the history books.