BMW combines all-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid in concept

At the 2013 Frankfurt auto show next month, BMW will display an X5 model SUV concept with a plug-in hybrid drive system.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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With the launch of the i3, and its dedicated i brand, BMW has been making a lot of noise about electric cars lately. At next month's Frankfurt auto show, that noise will bleed over into its existing model line with a new plug-in hybrid based on the X5 SUV.

BMW points out that the car will represent the first time it has built a vehicle combining the xDrive all-wheel-drive and its eDrive gasoline-electric hybrid system.

As a plug-in hybrid, the X5 eDrive combines a four-cylinder engine with a 70-kilowatt electric motor, and includes a lithium ion battery pack under the cargo area. BMW says the battery pack does not diminish the X5's cargo space compared with the gasoline version.

BMW did not provide specifics as to the gasoline engine, but it would likely be the company's direct injection turbocharged 2-liter four cylinder. In the 328i model, that engine produces 240 horsepower.

BMW X5 eDrive
Plug-in hybrids let you add electric power from the grid to help drive the car. BMW

With a charging port on the left front fender, drivers will be able to recharge the lithium ion battery at home, work, or a public charging station.

The performance specs for the X5 eDrive given by BMW are similar to that of the Ford C-Max Energi. The BMW drives about 19 miles under electric power, after which it will go into standard hybrid mode.

BMW's fuel economy figure for the X5 eDrive is 3.8 liters per 100 kilometers, which converts to about 62 mpg. However, that figure does not come from US EPA testing, and plug-in hybrid mileage will differ wildly between cars depending on how they are recharged.

Similar to its 3-series ActiveHybrid, the X5 eDrive includes BMW's Proactive Driving Assistant, which uses navigation system data, such as ascents and descents, to automatically adjust use of electricity and gasoline, maximizing efficiency.

Drivers will also be able to choose an electric drive mode or a battery-saver mode, the latter relying on the gas engine to save electric driving range.

BMW points out that the X5 eDrive gets blue accents in a shade matching that of its i-branded cars, suggesting that the technology developed for its i cars will find use in BMW models.

At this point, the X5 eDrive is only being shown as a concept, but the technology all seems readily available from BMW.