Future Cars

BMW will launch new scalable architecture in 2021

The modular platform will support gasoline, hybrid and fully electric powertrains.

BMW

BMW has an ambitious plan to launch 25 electrified vehicles by the year 2025, 12 of which will be pure EVs. Stefan Juraschek, BMW's head of electric powertrain development, isn't the least bit worried. Speaking to Roadshow at the New York Auto Show last week, Juraschek said that this will all be possible thanks to a new modular architecture that'll launch in in 2021.

"It's a little bit complicated to bring batteries inside the conventional cars," Juraschek said. "We are developing modular kits from the components side, together with the new architectures from the vehicle side."

In other words, in addition to modular vehicle architecture, the electrified powertrains themselves will be scalable. Battery systems can be lengthened and stacked depending on the side of the vehicle, or combined with internal combustion engines for plug-in hybrid drivetrains.

"These architectures are capable [of handling] all different drivetrains," Juraschek said. It starts with a conventional combustion engine, but the company is "also in a position to build a PHEV out of it and also to do a pure electric vehicle."

BMW's i Vision Dynamics concept from 2017 imagines the sexier side of the company's electrified future.

BMW

As for those internal combustion engines, Juraschek said BMW will add 48-volt electric assist to those powertrains in the coming years. While BMW's new vehicle architecture isn't expected to launch until 2021, we should see the 48-volt engines a year or two earlier.

While this modular architecture will be able to support all sorts of body styles, Juraschek said utility vehicles will likely be the key to success. BMW has already announced an upcoming electric iX3 based on the company's X3 SUV.

"With [an] SUV you can modify with the height of the battery," Juraschek said, noting that the scalable electric powertrains will allow stacking of the battery packs. "SUV [design] is definitely easier than the rest. Sedans are really the most complex."

This could also mean the end of the road for BMW's current electric-intensive offerings, the i3 and i8. Since these vehicles are built on unique architecture, they don't make sense to include in BMW's scalable, modular future.

"This i3, i8 approach -- we had it already," Juraschek said. "Right now our approach for the next generation is really to be as flexible worldwide with all our production systems."