Jaguar, Audi, Porsche and BMW: their EV futures

Electric saloons and crossovers were big – seriously big – news at the Geneva Motor Show.

Jaguar had the big production car story with the I-Pace. Which is perhaps why Audi felt the need to send a couple of prototypes of its rival e-tron shuttling around the showground, wrapped in disguise graphics.

Porsche showed a reasonably realistic vision of its second Mission E model, and told Top Gear a lot more detail about the first Mission E, which launches next year.

VW showed a big saloon concept, the ID Vizzion, which will go into production in 2021. By which time VW will have have tacked on a steering wheel.

BMW, meanwhile, had nothing to show but announced it will put into production the i4. That’s the real-world version of last autumn’s Vision i Dynamics concept car, itself a realistic derivation of the fantastical BMW 100th anniversary concept. (OK, time to ‘fess up, we called it the i5 when we first wrote about it.)

Aston Martin unveiled the Lagonda too. While we know they’re serious about Lagonda and about EVs, this particular concept is pretty far-fetched. It’s designed around solid-state batteries, a technology that’s not even in the prototype stage yet. At least not in vehicles, only in the lab.

Hyundai had a production electric Kona, available with two battery sizes, the biggest able to store 64kWh for 300-odd miles of real-world range. There was even a SsangYong EV, a crossover due in 2019. As with the Kona, there’s a similar version with an engine, the new Korando due later this year.

Among carmakers building both electric and combustion cars, there is one striking difference. Do they scratch-design the EVs, or do they share platforms with their conventional petrol, diesel and hybrid cars?

BMW has a platform-sharing approach. The i4 uses an adapted version of the architecture that serves everything from the next-gen 3 Series to the upcoming X7, including the current 5 and 7 Series. I asked BMW boss Harald Krüger why they don’t have a dedicated electric platform, which is what Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche – and of course Tesla – have settled on.

The reason, he said, is flexibility. “Who can predict future electric market share?” So if EVs stiff out, BMW won’t be over-committed. Not only that, but also the opposite, says Krüger. “Even if EV grows fast we can react fast and build them on the existing combustion-car production lines. If you have dedicated EVs, what do you do with the old combustion-car plants?”

OK, but what if building a dedicated EV platform results in a better EV? Krüger simply tells me to look at the i4 concept, and asks if I see any problem with the looks, performance or range.

Porsche says electric cars would be additional sales, not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911

But Audi’s R&D chief, Peter Mertens disagrees. “The e-tron has an architecture called PPE, or Premium Platform Electric. It’s dedicated to electric and won’t be used for combustion cars or even plug-in hybrids. We have a Chinese wall between the two. They are so different as to proportions, packaging, weight distribution.”

Which is all very well, but until 2016 Mertens had the same R&D role at Volvo. And there he was responsible for the CMA platform, which sits under the new XC40. That one was designed to accommodate a full-EV version.

Jaguar has seized the advantages of a bespoke EV platform. The I-Pace’s proportions are radically different from the other Jag SUVs. Jaguar design chief Ian Callum likens it to the shift in sports cars from front to mid engines.

Absent a bulky engine at the front, its design pushes the driver forward, allowing more cabin space, and the long wheelbase leaves room for a bigger battery. Compare that with the long-bonnet BMW Vision i Dynamics.

What about the lack of flexibility and extra risk BMW’s Krüger talks of? The Jaguar is built under contract by Magna in Austria, so to an extent Jaguar has off-loaded the risk to Magna. It’s Magna who makes the E-Pace, too, as well as two BMWs and the Mercedes G-Class, so it manages to be a pretty flexible shop.

But Audi’s Mertens acknowledges the risk that BMW’s Krüger is talking about. “Yes, it does give us less flexibility in production. We have made a bold commitment.” The e-tron is to be made in a re-fitted Audi factory in Brussels. Mertens says Audi expects 15 per cent of its cars will be full-electric by 2025.

Porsche is pretty solidly committed too. That’s an understatement. It is investing €6 billion (£5.5bn) on electric R&D and production and the world’s highest-power charger network. Those things will zap up a Mission E from zero to 80 per cent charge in an astonishing 15 minutes.

Porsche has found space in its historic Zuffenhausen plant to install a dedicated new production line for the Mission E. I asked Porsche’s Sales and Marketing chief Detlev von Platen about his sales expectation. “There have been thousands of studies into the takeup of EVs and they have got thousands of answers. But €6 billion says we will be bold.”

That Mission E production line is geared for 20,000 cars a year, including other versions like the Cross Turismo, shown as a concept in Geneva. For reference, Porsche sold 250,000 cars and crossovers last year. Von Platen says the electric cars would be additional not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911.

Porsche is also developing leasing schemes where an owner pays a monthly fee and can swap between several Porsche models. That means if an EV wouldn’t work for, say, a holiday to a remote place, they would swap into a Cayenne or Panamera for the occasion.

Porsche’s R&D chief Michael Steiner says the Mission E uses a dedicated Porsche platform. The battery has cut-outs in the footwells so the passengers sit lower than other electric cars, to get a low roof line and the centre of gravity right down. Odd then that they jacked it up for the Mission E Cross Turismo concept, but the first production Mission E will be low as a snake’s belly.

Steiner confirms that Porsche is additionally working on the PPE platform with Audi. That’s the one used by the Audi e-tron, and its battery is a simple sandwich shape.

So Porsche will launch a second full-electric line. There will be the Mission E family, and, later a whole other electric crossover lineup on the PPE platform. That’s another part of the €6bn then. Will it be too similar to the Audi? “No-one questions that the Macan is a Porsche, even though it is related to an Audi.”

What does Steiner think of the possibility of a flexible platform that would also allow petrol versions? “You would have to compromise. You would have to make room for the engine, and for batteries.”

Those things are very different shapes. He says with solid-state batteries it would be easier, because those batteries might be half the size and weight of lithium ion. But even so, “Porsche does not like compromise.” Tell that to BMW then…


CES 2015: BMW is going Tech-Heavy

BMW Inductive Charging

As the arena gathers in Las Vegas to peer the trendy from the arena of era at the 2015 edition of thepatron Electronics display, BMW is bringing in quite the variety of improvements this year. even thoughthe listing consists of a myriad of innovations and technology, here‘s what intrigued us the most:

a. Key Fob with display: the brand new avant-garde key fob for the BMW i8 plug-in-hybrid gets a display. Its modern-day layout includes a three-D glass floor and aluminium clasps to complement the key fob’sfunctionality. further to acting the same old capabilities of a far off key, this one additionallypresentations the automobile reputation on a 2.2-inch liquid crystal display display screen, which includes fuel degree, or the battery electric range among different matters. Swiping the touchscreen opens up sub-menus, which display if the doorways and windows are locked or if a service is due.

it’s miles critical to take into account that the statistics is transmitted to the key fob thru the same radiosignal used to fasten/ unlock the automobile. for this reason, the statistics can be up to date most effective if the automobile is within radio variety of the key.

it is going to be available as an alternative for the BMW i8 from autumn 2015.

the important thing functions can be used for at least 3 months with out charging. also, it could be recharged in the vehicle by using putting it in a unique charging tray, or via the use of the micro USB port.

b. car Automation: BMW’s modern-day safety relevant endeavour – 360-diploma collision avoidance – is athe subsequent step in the direction of accidentunfastened non-public mobility in each motive force-operated and absolutely automatic, driverless vehicles. it is based totally on precise position andenvironment sensing.

BMW 360-degree Collision Avoidance

4 extraordinarily superior laser scanners display the environment of the automobile to discoverobstacles. Upon detection, an audible signal warns the driving force in a capacity collision scenario. Ifthe driving force nevertheless fails to remedy the scenario, for instance if the vehicle is coming near a wall or pillar too speedy, automatic braking may be initiated. If the motive force steers away from theobstacle or reverses course, braking is robotically interrupted.

the alternative feature under automobile automation is the fully automated faraway Valet Parking Assistant inside the BMW i3 studies car. It combines records obtained by using on-board laser scanners with the digital plan of a building. while the motive force activates the fully automatic remote Valet Parking Assistant, the usage of his/her smartwatch, the vehicle is driven autonomously to a parking space.

BMW faraway Valet Parking Assistant

The absolutely computerized faraway Valet Parking Assistant and its sensors as it should be detect now not only the physical capabilities of the constructing but also any sudden obstacles. while the BMW i3 reaches its very last parking function, it parks and routinely locks itself.

c. Inductive Charging: Inductive charging includes charging an electric automobile‘s battery thru a magneticdiscipline, consequently eliminating the want of a difficultwired connection between the vehicle and the energy source.

The machine accommodates a number one and a secondary coil; whilst the number one coil is outfittedin a base pad under the car, for instance on or embedded in the storage ground. The secondary coil isincluded within the underside of the BMW i8. As quickly because the vehicle is located over the basepad and the charging process starts, an alternating magnetic subject is generated which transmits energyamong the coils.

BMW Inductive Charging

The BMW i8’s battery may be completely recharged in less than 2 hours thru inductive charging – that’sapproximately the equal amount of time required with a wired connection.

Why top tools’s greatest ever vehicle become a £1,500 BMW banger

BMW E39 5-seriesWhat’s the fine car Clarkson, Hammond and might ever featured on their generation of pinnacle tools? goon, rack your brains. Have a contemplate. The Bugatti Veyron remarkable sport, possibly, wherein Jamesmay hit 259mph? one of the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari or Porsche 918 Spyder, the “holy trinity” of hybrid supercars, maybe?

Or possibly it’s the Eagle Speedster, a vehicle of which Clarkson said: “i’ve never ever driven a car that i’vedesired more than this one.”

Nope, you’re wrong. The pleasant car ever featured on pinnacle tools became none of those. In fact, thefirst-rate automobile ever featured on top equipment also occurs to be the automobile I’d put forwardbecause the exceptional car ever made. inside the international.
It’s an vintage BMW. sure, of the kind you used to look up your chuff at the M4 quite often, and yes, one which you can purchase these days for banger money. To be precise, it’s the 0.33era BMW fiveseries;acknowledged to devotees by means of its model improvement code, E39, and produced among 1995 and 2003.
Clarkson drove one – a 528i journeying, to be genuinewhen he and his co-hosts trekked to locate thesource of the Nile. It changed into, of direction, hopeless for the challengebut in spite of the abuse levelled at it, the BMW made it to journey’s end, that is just what I’d anticipate given my enjoy of themodel.
you spot, I used to very own a 528i myself – a saloon which i bought in 2011, with one hundred twenty,000 miles on the clock and completed in a doubtful color of pale steel inexperiencedacknowledged by BMW as Glacier green.

It had a hard project on its hand while it arrived. A lifelong BMW sceptic, I’d been persuaded into shopping for one by means of a few BMW-loving colleagues who’d touted its diverse deserves and described the E39 as “the nice car inside the international”.
well, blow me down in the event that they weren’t proper. despite its widespread mileage, my 528inevertheless felt tight as a button. It become spacious, comfortable, fast, smooth, rode fantastically,treated deftly, and seemed extremely good. It even controlled deeply respectable gas economy,improving a friend’s 1.6-litre Volkswagen golf on a long run.

while the model become released in 1995, it changed into given a rapturous welcome throughjournalists and consumers alike”
I drove it everywhere. I placed 30,000 miles on it in the years I had it, and those miles included a ridethroughout to Austria in the depths of January, shod with iciness tyres. It crossed a mountain skip in asnowstorm; the temperature out of doors turned into -20C, but the BMW pressed on without breaking stride, all of the while warming our posteriors with its heated seats.
however it wasn’t simply my fiveseries that was a peach. every model turned into a gem; even the entrydegree 520i, additionally endowed with a creamy-smooth six-cylinder engine. someplace else within thevariety you could find the lusty 530d, one of the first absolutely applicable diesels; the throbbing, V8-powered 540i, and of direction the rampant M5 exquisite saloon, a automobile whose purity and stabilityhave yet to be emulated via its successors.

“Little has come alongside considering that to assignment the E39’s specific combo of competencies. As an all-rounder, it nonetheless stands on the top of the tree”
when the version became launched in 1995, it turned into given a rapturous welcome by newshoundsand buyers alike. right away, the Mercedes E-magnificence become made to look wooden; the Jaguar XJ to appearance cramped and dated; the Audi A6 to appearance deeply humdrum.
fastforward to 2003, and the E39 turned into bowing out, supposedly overtaken by way of the more recent, extra advanced rivals that had come into being at some point of its life. yet even then, it becomenevertheless prevailing organization exams, beating the rivals that need to have walked all over italmost with out exception.

certainly, the 5collection which replaced it become viewed through many – myself protected – as inferior, endowed with cheaper-feeling plastics, more finicky styling and slightly blunted dynamics.
And little has come along in view that to project the E39’s unique combination of abilties. As an all-rounder, it nevertheless stands on the top of the tree; an automobile high-water mark. It’s no longer asthough we haven’t had a few definitely splendid vehicles seeing that then, of path, however in my estimation, none has pretty ticked all the packing containers so comprehensively, or been so manymatters to so many people.

whether you need an economical diesel property automobile, a clean luxury saloon, or a tactile butmuscle-sure supercar, you’ll discover one within the range. And the excellent news of all is that E39s –except for the M5 and many of the topgive up models – are to be had for banger cash.
Clarkson spent £1,500 on his, and as I write this, there’s low-mileage, overdueversion 525i within theclassifieds for exactly that sum. A first rate early 523i, meanwhile, may be had for as low as £seven-hundred. A better automobile for less cash, you may not discover.

It couldn’t quite hit 259mph, I’ll provide you, however the E39 fiveseries should pull off maximum of the other stunts top gear asked of its automobiles. The M5 could powerslide with the pleasant of them, whilsta 540i with comfort seats would make light paintings of a move-continental race. And in case you wantedto deck out its interior with stone flooring and a wood-burning stove, properly, it’d possibly be adequatewith that too.

So yes, you may preserve your Bugattis and Paganis, your Koenigseggs and your Ariels. For me, there’shandiest one vehicle which can truly lay declare to having been the excellent automobile ever to featureon pinnacle tools – and it’s the E39 BMW fiveseries.