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Has BMW, the maker of the ultimate (electric) driving machines decided to follow Chevrolet’s example?
Word from Munich today is that BMW’s head of electrical components, Dr. Christian Schmidt, said it is weighing the possibility of a range-extended engine to pair to electric vehicles.
For some time now BMW has said it would consider an array of gas-plus-electric possibilities. Its fully electric i3 prototype is on one extreme, and its mildly e-boosted 7 Series ActiveHybrid is on the other.
BMW’s pending i8 (pictured) is in the middle and closer to a range-extended car. With mid-mounted petrol engine plus one electric motor driving the front wheels and one driving the rear, it can go either all-electric around town or gas-plus electric for high performance.
The extended-range Chevrolet Volt couples a gas-powered generator to pick up when limited-range batteries would leave a driver stranded, and apparently BMW is seeing the logic in GM’s engineered compromise.
Rumors and conjecture abound state that battery energy density increases will make doing away with petrol power viable for cost-effective, longer-range, quicker charging EVs. One battery researcher working for EPRI, a non-profit utility company research arm, recently estimated a conservative doubling of power in the next 10 years.
BMW’s Schmidt did not say which BMWs could receive a range extender, but said the Mini E did not receive many range anxiety complaints. If BMW decides to go with a range extender, it will be one more gas-electric solution in its growing stable of partially electric vehicles.
BMW’s in-development electric car, the i3 has been confirmed as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a mid-mounted electric motor. It is expected to be for sale by 2013.
Its motor support platform was developed in house and made mostly of carbon fiber. The motor will be positioned ahead of the rear wheels, and the serviceable battery pack will be below the trunk.
Before the i3, BMW will be show a version of its all-electric drivetrain in the ActiveE 1 Series, scheduled to debut later this month at the New York Auto Show.
The more familiar-looking 1 Series model will have a different battery configuration. It will reside between the passenger compartment and trunk. Its cells will not be grouped together, as they are for the i3. BMW said it will announce ActiveE price and a leasing plan details at New York.
BMW will allow consumers to try out their ActiveE electric car, based on the 1-Series Coupe, in certain markets, prior to a broader rollout of electric vehicles, culminating in the Megacity EV’s debut in 2013.
The ActiveE will be offered for lease starting next summer. The ActiveE will be offered in New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston and Connecticut – all places where an electric car is likely to be well received. With a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 90 mph, the ActiveE is likely suited to these locales, where distance driving is not as crucial and having a BMW badge on the hood goes a long way in the status rat race.
Hit the jump to see the official press release