Hats off to BMW. The German car maker smacked the rest of the automotive world upside its collective head on Tuesday, with a bonkers new concept car that can worry a BMW M3 in a drag race, challenge a Toyota Prius for scanty emissions, and beat Nicole Ritchie's newborn child, Sparrow James Midnight Madden, in a stupidest-name contest.
Behold the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics: a car so progressive that it actually looks like a pair of Usain Bolt's Puma training shoes. Its bodywork has an almost exoskeletal appearance, with F1-inspired body panels that look as if they've had enormous chunks gouged out of them for less resistance through the air. It seems to work, too -- the Vision has a drag coefficient of 0.22, which is the lowest of any BMW car.
It's no surprise, then, that the Vision moves so efficiently through air. BMW says it'll record an anticipated 75.1mpg on the European combined cycle, while emitting just 99g of carbon dioxide per kilometre. That's on a par with the 2010 Prius, for goodness sake.
The reason it's so efficient is its unusual hybrid powertrain (the thing that makes it go). This consists of a 1.5-litre turbo-charged diesel engine, a rear-mounted electric motor producing 28kW and 290Nm of torque, and a front-mounted electric motor chucking out 60kW and 220Nm of torque. BMW isn't quoting exact performance figures, but peak power is said to be the equivalent of 356hp and 800Nm of torque -- not bad for a car that weighs 1,395kg.
The Vision can be driven exclusively in diesel mode, although the engine can also be used to recharge the battery, or work in tandem with the electric motors for maximum performance. Electric-only range is expected to be 31 miles, which isn't bad considering today's hybrids usually have an electric-only range of 1 or 2 miles. BMW estimates that, with all propulsion systems working in tandem, the Vision will have a maximum range of 431 miles, although this can be extended either by refuelling, or by plugging the vehicle into a household power outlet. Recharge time is estimated to be 2.5 hours off a standard plug, or 44 minutes if connected to a more powerful 380V outlet.
BMW showed a working version of the Vision at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but we'll eat our hats if it sees the light of day in this guise. BMW will almost certainly tone it down before release, or -- more likely -- funnel the Vision's technology into less exciting EfficientDynamics cars, such as the new BMW 320d EfficientDynamics saloon.
We can dream, though. We suggest you peruse the pics in our gallery for a closer look and more information.
The bodywork has sections carved out of it to help funnel air more efficiently from front to back. It's an unusual approach, but the result is a vehicle with the lowest drag coefficient of any BMW vehicle.