Published on September 14th 2017 in

New vehicle technology and electrification creates demand for lightweighting

A shift towards greater electrification combined with other safety and technology demands will force BMW to further lightweight its vehicles. “We see really significant weight increases coming to the cars”, BMW head of lightweight design and vehicle weight Florian Schek said at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management briefing seminars. Schek’s forecasts might apply to other global OEMs as well, which means that it’s not just BMW-certified shops who ought to pay attention.

For example, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have announced plans to convert all of their vehicles to mild or plug-in hybrids or go completely electric, and Schek said it was pretty clear that the internal combustion was “not the future” given global regulations. “It might be the end of the powertrains as we know them,” said Schek.

Regulators worldwide are forcing the change to greater electrification, but Schek said BMW research also saw consumers thawing to the idea of plug-in hybrids and battery-only vehicles. In 2016, 17 percent of US customers preferred the idea of a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for their next purchase, up from 6 percent in 2014. Once a US consumer buys a PHEV or full-battery-electric vehicle, they are more inclined to buy another, according to BMW’s research.

Unlike a traditional “mild hybrid”, like the Toyota Prius, plug-in hybrids, like the Prius Prime, have an externally chargeable battery useful for a couple dozen miles but also an internal combustion engine. The idea is that a consumer could run a day of errands in-town without ever using any fuel but still have the traditional engine for distance driving. Schek predicted that by 2025, 15-25 percent of all BMW sales would be either plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicles. The company recently announced an architecture flexible enough to offer PHEV or completely electric powertrains on every brand and model series. Unfortunately, these alternative powertrains and other 21st century automotive demands can add enough weight to exceed the parameters set for the architecture.

“Lightweighting is crucial to BMW, especially since we need the benefits to meet our product characteristics,” Schek said, although the fruits of this lightweighting might not be as obvious based on kerb weight alone. BMW has resigned itself to a future of “no lighter cars anymore” where the OEM works hard on lightweighting a vehicle body just to offset the new mass introduced by another piece of technology. For example, he said the next-generation 7-Series and 5-Series were about as optimized as the cars could get. “The development will add weight and we cannot compensate completely,” Schek said.

This article courtesy of John Huetter of Repairer Driven Education (RDE). Check out their website at; http://www.repairerdrivennews.com/ for this and many other informative and educational article on the collision repair industry.

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