BMW CTO Frank Weber talks about the future of the company

JHere’s another generation of combustion engines in the works, but BMW has a clear focus on highly efficient, fully digitized electric vehicles (EVs), according to a company executive.

Asked to name an expiration date for combustion engines, Frank Weber, member of the BMW board of directors in charge of engineering, replies like a blow: “Bad question! Before we can discuss an exit scenario , the alternative energy chain must function fully.

“By this I mean charging infrastructure, green electricity and sustainable raw materials globally. At present, we are still in the middle of the transition phase. That is why BMW will launch this year a new generation of engines in the replacement of the 7 Series.

“After all, our goal is to offer a wide choice of modern, clean and efficient drivetrain technologies. But the R&D team is primarily focused on cutting-edge EV applications, which will one day replace gasoline and diesel engines.”

Benefiting from numerous innovations such as preheated catalysts and a pre-chamber ignition system, these internal combustion engines (ICE) meet the Euro 7 emissions standard which is due to be implemented in 2025. What Weber did not not mentioned is the strategic need to keep a bunch of different irons in the fire to meet the increasingly heterogeneous demands of the global market.

One moment the CTO talks about the upcoming 7 Series and the i7, which he describes as the only true emission-free luxury sedan, while just a blink later Frank Weber is ready to dive deep in the future – where it must face challenges such as edge computing, disruption filtering, Deeptech, circular economy, assembly on demand, etc.

After all, the character of the automobile is rapidly changing from a personal transportation device to a multifunctional tool in the increasingly digital and fully connected world of the user.

In this time-shifting process, classic values ​​such as performance and driving pleasure are complemented (or even set aside) by the emphasis on social acceptance and revolutionary computing features – the slogan “mobility as service” comes to mind.


The future 100% electric BMW i7 tested in cold weather.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW reinforced the continued development of its personalized 24/7 mobility concept with on-demand body color change at the touch of a button, a second row that unfolds from the ceiling, and an exclusive lounge atmosphere as a taste of autonomous driving.

“The digital revolution requires extensive know-how and the ability to synchronize the rapid pace of the IT sector with the processes of the automotive industry,” says Weber.

BMW intends to redesign the car, but not reinvent it – evolution instead of revolution is the name of the game. The main common denominator for the present and the future is the highly flexible production network that will undergo major adjustments to qualify for the electric age.

The first factory designed to cater exclusively to new needs will enter service in Debrecen, Hungary in 2024. Home of the new class, this high-efficiency facility is to assemble the next X3 named NA0 and the replacement for the 3-series, dubbed NA5 .

Since EVs typically have fewer parts count – and require fewer work cycles that require less floor space, BMW believes they will ultimately be significantly cheaper to build than the current breed. more complex.

But how can a single DNA – the new new class – cover the entire model range, from the humble 1 Series to the heavyweight X7? “Clever packaging is key,” the manager knows.

“Right from the start, ensuring maximum space for the batteries is key. We’ve developed a scalable set of modules that house different cell types ranging from performance-oriented range. Done right, this gene pool s suitable for the entire range, including the sporty M models.

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Frank Weber, Technical Director of BMW.

The new class takes an even more radical route than the i4 derivative and the remarkably advanced iX, showing what can be done when engineers start with a clean sheet of paper.

But it’s not just the architecture that defines the performance of a new EV. Other important innovation drivers, allegedly unique to BMW, are; a pioneering solid-state battery, fully integrated patented inverter, bespoke performance electronics and a set of in-house designed and built SSM electric motors.

Frank Weber knows the details: “The advantages of our current-excited synchronous machines include: high performance density, very strong and stable peak performance, high repeatability, low noise emission and an excellent efficiency quotient of 97%

So why does competition always favor the supposedly inferior ASM and PSM principles? “Because at present, only BMW has mastered the difficult manufacturing technology.”

The winding road to electrification, digitalization and autonomous driving never seems to stop draining resources, forcing the industry to save as much as possible.

BMW also needs to reduce proliferation and complexity, reduce or bundle options, reduce driveline variety, drop niche models, shift the mix by boosting higher-margin products, and open up new digital business areas.

While demand for coupes and convertibles continues to falter, SUVs and crossovers remain a license to print money – which is why all X models from iX1 to iX7, including coupes and M derivatives, will be electrified relatively quickly.

Meanwhile, the Munich Vine tells us that the 4 and 8 Series will merge as the redesigned 6 Series in 2026. The only likely survivor is the 8 Series Gran Coupé, part of the future 7 Series family, sources say.

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Rendering BMW iM2 and BMW i4.

What’s still missing is a new halo car modeled after icons like M1, Z1, Z8 or i8.

“Bad,” quips Frank Weber. “We have no difficulty imagining a highly emotional model based on the New Class matrix.” The rumor mill has indeed been peddling for some time a new 1 MW supercar (i.e. 1000 kW or 1360 hp in old money), which could become the ultimate successor to the M4.

At the International Motor Show in Germany, BMW introduced the i Vision Circular concept, a fully recyclable Mini-sized sedan heralded by some as the future i3.

That’s not true – a new megacity vehicle is currently nowhere in sight. But that shouldn’t stop us from highlighting the show car’s three main messages: the full cycle of CO2-neutral materials from cradle to grave, the impending demise of the controversial rodent-toothed grille in favor of a butterfly kidney, and the new brand strategy, which is intended to shape future interior products.

In other words, the cockpit of tomorrow should become a zone of silence minimized, the days of relentless digital distraction attacks are hopefully numbered and the car’s new mission as a personalized cocoon leads the way. relaxed, hands-off driving. .

When it comes to the BMW radiator theme, we expect wider trapezoidal shapes, a wider range of proportions, as well as more adventurous surfaces and color coding. After the X2, the XM is only the second provider of the new family face, but its extreme front-end graphics will thankfully not be repeated by the mainstream 5-Series replacement.

2023 BMW XM Concept


BMW Concept XM.

Although the automobile is becoming more and more complex by the day, the product itself no longer has the full attention of the CTO, who can in his sleep bend metal, adjust a chassis and make transmissions are efficient.

Rather, what keeps Frank Weber on his toes is the big picture, the multiple gray areas that need to be explored, ever-changing legislative hurdles, differing customer preferences, the proliferation of digital must-haves, and the need to be fully competitive in areas that didn’t even exist the last time we looked.

For a moment, the CTO lets us glimpse his to-do list: “In terms of infotainment, we need to bring the advanced computing content that Chinese customers take for granted to Europe as soon as possible. When it comes to connectivity, BMW must waste no time catching up with the best.

“We also need to respond quickly to new players even outside of this industry, accelerate application integration and quickly create new digital business models. At the same time, it is imperative to strengthen computing power, ensure maximum IT security and to offer an extension works at cost through over-the-air updates.”

According to Herr Weber, a BMW usually has four lives. When the warranty expires after three years, all essential functionality should still be intact. The next three-year period is much more critical, not necessarily due to prolonged wear and tear, but because technology is advancing by leaps and bounds.

BMW intends to close this capability gap by offering attractive over-the-air (OTA) custom enhancements. Cars six years or older tend to suffer from increasingly obvious hardware deficits, such as the missed step from LED headlights to matrix headlights, the arrival of new assistance systems that cannot be retrofitted, or upgraded in-car entertainment features like full-width movie screens. .

When the battery, which is usually covered by an eight-year warranty, needs to be replaced, two out of three electric vehicles have reached the end of the road. Since a new power bank is a major investment, most gutless high-mileage specimens with an obvious TLC deficit head straight for the recycling yard.

The new class comes too soon to answer the crucial question of cell to case or cell to chassis. While Nio-style battery swapping isn’t an option, the type of integration remains a controversial hot topic.



The fully electric BMW iX.

In the medium term, BMW would favor a closed circuit concept, which combines the cells, the cooling system and the associated crash protection elements in a central module under the solid floor.

In the short term, however, the focus is on evolutions to the scalable multi-level skateboard deck, which can accommodate special features such as; a rear footwell (a cutout in the floor designed to keep the H-point low), a sturdier two-stage battery tray for SUVs and crossovers, and a dynamic main control unit, which selectively distributes torque on all four wheels.

According to connoisseurs, the most extreme new class BMW has an engine on every corner and can be fully charged in less than five minutes. Looks like the return of the “ultimate driving machine” is almost a done deal.