An all-electric 7 series will be added to the lineup for German car maker BMW, which says it will cut half of all petrol and diesel drive-trains from 2021 as it commits 30 billion euros ($A59 billion) to “future-oriented technologies” over the next five years.
BMW is adding the new battery electric version to the latest lineup of 7 series alongside a plug-in hybrid version, part of its plan to introduce 25 electrified variants to market by 2023.
While it is not yet relinquishing petrol and diesel versions of the 7 series despite tightening restrictions of CO2 emissions in Europe, up to 50% of traditional drive-trains will be cut from 2021.
The all-electric 7 series, which will join BMW’s planned i4 and the long available i3, will use BMW’s fifth generation drive-train. No other details regarding specification such as range and battery capacity were given in the company’s press release on the new electric series.
The announcement follows news that BMW will also end production of its once ground-breaking i8 plug-in hybrid, of which it sold 20,000 units in its six years on the market.
The new investment will be accompanied by efficiency improvements under the German car maker’s “Performance > NEXT” program, which it expects will save in excess of 12 billion euros ($A23.6 billion) by the end of 2022.
Development times for new models will be cut by one third, the company says, with petrol and diesel drivetrain vehicles replaced with electrified drivetrain models with “enhanced, intelligent vehicle architectures”.
“New technologies are key to the future of mobility. Up to 2025, we intend to invest more than 30 billion euros in research and development to underscore our position as an innovation leader. This also expresses our confidence for the future business development,” said BMW chairman of the board Oliver Zipse in a statement.
“The ability to integrate diverse technologies to form a complete system is vitally important. Those companies capable of developing and combining hardware and software in equal measure will shape the future of the automobile.”
Over 46,000 staff have been trained in electric drivetrain manufacture and design as part of the program. BMW says it has 5,300 IT staff dedicated to data analytics – one of the largest employers in the IT field in Germany according to the company.
The announcement of the investment, of course, comes at a time of great uncertainty as markets fall and countries go into lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
BMW is just one of numerous car makers that are shutting down operations temporarily in response to the virus. BMW factories in Europe, South Africa, the UK and the US are closing doors for periods stretching into mid to late April.
“We take our responsibility seriously, both when it comes to ensuring the protection and health of our employees and to achieving the best possible balance in terms of profitability. One thing is certain: coronavirus is here now, but there will also be a time after coronavirus,” said Zipse.
“The approach we are taking clearly reflects the BMW Group’s ability to react quickly and flexibly.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.