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|03-25-2010, 03:28 PM||#1|
BMW Technik GmbH - BMW's Think Tank and R&D arm Celebrates 25th Anniversary
The BMW Group owes its status as the world’s most successful manufacturer of premium automobiles to an outstanding development concept in all areas relevant to driving pleasure, sustainability and safety. The principles of this pre-eminence have been forged over the last quarter of a century in BMW (Forschung und) Technik GmbH. The researchers operating within the framework of this think tank develop technologies and concepts for individual mobility in tomorrow’s world. The subsidiary was created 25 years ago as BMW Technik GmbH. With this company the BMW Group has a centre of competence that is unique throughout the world. It safeguards and expands technology leadership for BMW by providing a constant stream of innovations.
This groundwork is carried out autonomously, but it is by no means uncoupled from the development of series vehicles. The experts working in BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH enjoy a high degree of creative freedom that allows them to take innovative approaches and look for unconventional solutions. They make use of diverse sources of inspiration which can range from bionics to space engineering, and they develop perspectives on the future that extend far beyond the life cycle of a vehicle model. “Our project-related research is not linked to the current product range, although we naturally have the objective of consistently optimizing the characteristic features of vehicles coming from the BMW Group and transferring our projects and ideas to series development,” explains Professor Raymond Freymann, Managing Director of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH.
The concept of cooperative research also ensures that the departments responsible for subsequent series development can be integrated within the relevant project at an early stage. This approach guarantees that operations for realization are already being monitored during the research phase. The initiators of an innovation also support their project after it has been transferred to the pre-production and series development phase. They then move with their project to the series development department at BMW AG. This provides safeguards for ensuring that information is not lost at interfaces, and it promotes a dynamic exchange of ideas on a personal level between research and series development. This strategy facilitates a strategic and efficient use of the innovative force pooled within BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH.
Competence center in Munich and international network
The subsidiary company was founded as BMW Technik GmbH in 1985. The main focus of activities in the early years was defined as the development and construction of concept vehicles. The minutes of the Executive Board meeting in January 1985 clearly set out the mission of the fledgling company: “The recently founded company BMW Technik GmbH has the mission to develop innovative, future-oriented and original overall vehicle concepts and sub-concepts away from the constraints of a specific series work flow schedule. However, the objective should always be to develop solutions that have the potential for series development.” The initial aim was to work on projects under the working title “Auto 2000” and “Local Vehicle”.
When the company was rebranded in 2003 as BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH to reflect both research and technology, the focus was shifted to developing technology that encompassed all types of BMW vehicle. The workforce currently has a headcount of around 200 at the Munich site, and BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH has extensive expertise in the areas of vehicle engineering, hydrogen technologies, alternative drive and energy management concepts, active safety and driver assistance systems, as well as information and communication technologies in the vehicle. The research and technology center also maintains centers in the USA: the Technology Office Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, California, and the Liaison Office Clemson, South Carolina. They enjoy a close relationship with universities such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as research institutes and high-tech companies in other sectors. The aim is to harness innovative trends and technologies for deployment in the automobile sector.
There is also an extensive exchange of ideas with universities and research institutes at German and European level. Participation in the Eurécom European communication network – based at the Sophia Antipolis high-tech center in southern France – ensures that the research subsidiary of the BMW Group has access to leading-edge information and telecommunication technologies. In addition, BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH has a base at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence and drives forward the automation of intelligent behavior and hence the “Automobile of the Future”. The Munich Center of Automotive Research (CAR@TUM) established as a joint venture with Munich Technical University gives the subsidiary of the BMW Group permanent access to high-flying young academics with great potential for the future and it also ensures access to important results derived from ground-breaking scientific research.
BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH also works on state-financed research projects at national and international level together with other automobile manufacturers and suppliers in order to create industry-wide standards, ultimately for the benefit of all customers. One of the latest examples of this work are the field trials for vehicle-to-vehicle communication in the project entitled “Safe mobility – Test bed Germany”, abbreviated to simTD.
Anniversary: Premiere for fascinating concept vehicles and pioneering technologies.
The history of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH has been defined by a long track record of concept vehicles and technological innovations which generated pioneering impetus for the development of series vehicles, components and systems. The influence of research projects exerts varying effects on series development, depending on the subject focus and complexity. The scope ranges from direct implementation in the form of a concrete project to long-term development of technology competence. BMW Group Research and Technology is presenting a selection of projects to celebrate this landmark anniversary. The specialists working at the center have developed these projects and some of them will be experienced for the first time outside the confines of the well-guarded laboratories and workshops.
One of the first projects to be launched by the fledgling subsidiary company was the prototype for a BMW Z1 Coupe developed in 1988. This vehicle was created within the framework of a concept development based on the very first project of the new subsidiary – the BMW Z1 roadster produced in a limited series. The development engineers were interested in methods and technologies to facilitate a maximally efficient extension of a vehicle concept to additional derivatives. The knowledge gained from this project was used for the BMW Z3 series model, which was produced as a roadster and coupe, and for the first generation of the BMW Z4, which was also manufactured in open-top and closed versions.
A fuel-cell hybrid vehicle based on the BMW 1 Series is another project being presented in the public domain for the first time. This project developed by BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH shows a highly innovative form of hybrid technology developed within the framework of Efficient Dynamics in conjunction with the use of hydrogen as a fuel. Alongside a four-cylinder petrol engine, the research vehicle has an electric power unit for city traffic. The electrical energy is generated by a small fuel cell in the form of an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and stored temporarily in high-performance capacitors. These so-called super caps cover the performance peaks for acceleration and taking off at traffic lights, and store the electricity generated during braking. Using a comparatively small fuel cell to generate electricity from hydrogen achieves a high level of efficiency for city traffic, while the internal combustion engine is only used for high-speed journeys. This combination could have the capability to provide an emission-free range of several hundred kilometers in city traffic and facilitate “recharging” within the space of a few minutes – this is in addition to the mobility reserves provided by the internal combustion engine for long-distance travel.
BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH is also celebrating its anniversary by providing a unique insight into innovative projects in the area of intelligent networking between driver, vehicle and environment. BMW ConnectedDrive already delivers a package of driver-assisted systems and mobility services that is unique throughout the world. These systems enhance comfort and safety, as well as optimizing infotainment functions in the vehicle. The current research projects in this area include the narrow-passage assistant, which assists drivers if they are driving along particularly narrow lanes, for example near building works, and the emergency stop assistant which brings the vehicle safely to a stop if there is a medical emergency.
The latest success of the joint venture between BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH and Munich Technical University (CAR@TUM) is also presented. The project “IT-Motive 2020” involves the researchers developing an innovative architecture for information and communication technology integrated within the vehicle that permits functions previously distributed over a large number of different control units to be pooled in a homogeneous communication network. The aim is to provide a consistent hardware platform for displaying the continually expanding number of vehicle, comfort and safety functions.
Milestones: from the BMW Z1 to the lightweight sports coupe BMW Z29.
BMW Technik GmbH was launched in 1985 with the mission to develop innovative solutions for a large number of aspects associated with individual mobility. The specialists working in the newly established department were able to get to grips with this mission successfully in the very first project they tackled. They developed the BMW Z1 roadster. This vehicle project was intended to trial innovative materials, launch a revolutionary bodywork concept, and highlight opportunities for optimizing development processes. The result was so impressive that already three years later the first out of a total of 8 000 series vehicles left the Munich BMW Plant. With its plastic body, vertical sliding doors and fascinating handling properties, the BMW Z1 was not simply the first milestone in the history of BMW Technik GmbH – it also made its mark as an exceptional phenomenon on the road.
Revolutionary body and power-unit concepts were to shape development operations during the years to come. In 1993, the BMW Z13 was presented, a compact vehicle with a sporty design powered by a rear-mounted engine and three seats in an unconventional configuration. The driver was positioned behind the centrally located steering wheel, with seating space being provided behind the driver for two passengers. The study featured the driving pleasure typical of the brand, a high level of comfort, and outstanding safety attributes.
BMW E1: pioneer for electro-mobility
The same year already saw BMW Technik GmbH presenting the BMW Z15. This first fully functional concept vehicle with pure electric drive was a development of the BMW Z11 electric vehicle presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1991. As a prototype with the model designation BMW E1, the four-seater incorporated a design with pioneering aerodynamic and ergonomic features that provided impressive testimony to the superlative potential of its emission-free drive technology even in normal everyday use. The BMW E1 provided a range of up to 200 kilometers and a top speed of 120 km/h. The prototype generated universal acclaim among members of the public and independent testers. The readers’ choice in car magazine “Auto Zeitung” voted the BMW E1 as the winner in the category “Environment and Technology”, and trade magazine “Auto Bild” described the BMW E1 as “the most advanced car of the century”.
At the time, it was already evident that BMW was in a position to achieve typical BMW driving characteristics and operational capability geared to city driving with a purely electrical power unit. Series development would also be achievable if a battery technology with optimized power and cost could be developed. Today, BMW is continuing to build on this knowledge base in the context of project i: it provided the impetus for the development of a Mega City vehicle designed for emission-free mobility within large urban environments. An innovative vehicle concept and the most recent developments in the area of power unit and energy storage technology form the basis for a state-of-the-art presentation of electrical mobility.
New routes to maximum driving fun: BMW Z18 and BMW Just 4/2.
The development of the prototypes launched in 1995 also saw the specialists at BMW Technik GmbH searching for new and sophisticated approaches to driving pleasure. One of their ideas focused on designing an automobile counterpart to the Enduro motorcycle concept that was so successful during the 1990s. The yearning to explore off-road terrain and the pleasure of mobility under the open skies was combined for the first time on four wheels in the BMW Z18. An eight-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive, a variable interior concept and elevated seating characterize the innovative driving experience in the robust roadster.
The BMW Z18 had to wait five years after it was created for its public debut – the occasion was the celebration of 15 years of existence for the think tank. Another prototype that offered the prospect of driving fun while having previously been confined to motorcycles captivated the driving public at the Tokyo Motor Show in Japan as early as 1995. Freestanding wheels, a body that abandoned roof and windscreen, and a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine packing 100 hp were the hallmarks of the study where the two-seater concept was already integrated in the model designation – BMW Just 4/2.
Festival of innovations: The BMW Z22
The BMW Z22 was among the most sophisticated technology platforms that BMW Technik GmbH ever created. The study was presented in 1999, and it bristled with no less than 70 innovations and 61 registered inventions in areas ranging across body concept, lightweight construction, power unit, safety, mechanical systems and controls. The use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic in an innovative processing procedure permitted compliance with the highest crash safety standards while at the same time significantly reducing weight. Power steering, an electromechanical braking system, cameras instead of wing and rear mirrors, and a cockpit design reduced to the bare essentials defined the mold-breaking, future-proof character of the BMW Z22. Adaptive headlights, Head-up Display and central control unit enabled the prototype to offer innovative functions that were soon implemented further down the line in BMW series vehicles.
Consistent lightweight construction for uncompromising driving pleasure: The BMW Z29.
Optimization of the vehicle weight by deploying the most advanced high-tech materials was the focus of development for the BMW Z29 concept study. The prototype of a two-seater sports car was completed by BMW Technik GmbH in 2001 and represents the culmination of cooperation with another subsidiary of the BMW Group – BMW M GmbH. The vehicle exerts fascinating appeal with flowing lines and lambo-style doors. The principles underlying the outstanding potential of the BMW Z29 for dynamic driving can be found under the engine bonnet and below the surface of the paintwork. The power was generated by the in-line six-cylinder engine of the BMW M3 – at that time a technological benchmark – and the passenger cell was manufactured from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic while the rear axle, and front and rear module were designed in aluminum. The most important results of this combination: a weight-to-power ratio of 3.4 kg/hp and an acceleration ratio of 4.4 seconds for the sprint from a standing start to 100 km/h.
Research as foundation for Efficient Dynamics
The Efficient Dynamics development strategy provides the BMW Group with the world’s most efficient program for reducing consumption and emission values in road traffic. The development of power systems with optimized efficiency, smart energy management in the vehicle, and aerodynamic measures form the key supporting aspects of this strategy, complementing lightweight construction throughout. BMW Group Research and Technology has made significant progress in all these areas since the company was established and the results have been channeled into the series development of many different new models.
Intensive fundamental research has also been carried out in the context of the development of innovative and alternative propulsion systems. The spectrum of research ranges from new concepts for the classic internal combustion engine, through hybrid technology and the deployment of hydrogen as a fuel in the vehicle, to electro-mobility. This demonstrates that research covers all the areas that today form the mainstays of the Efficient Dynamics development strategy.
Hybrid concepts: more efficiency, more driving pleasure – right from the start
The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 and the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 are the first two models of the brand available in 2010 to use a combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor. Each model deploys a unique platform of BMW ActiveHybrid technology while also presenting a characteristic homogeneity: BMW ActiveHybrid presents tangibly enhanced dynamic driving accompanied by significantly reduced consumption and emission values. This twin-track advance is manifested in the BMW EfficientDynamics development strategy, and from the start it shaped the ground-breaking work carried out by BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH in hybrid technology. Hybrid technology in the style of BMW advances efficiency and intensifies driving pleasure.
The hybrid concept car based on the BMW 5 Series and developed in 1994 already facilitated fully electric and hence emission-free driving with characteristic features optimized for city traffic. The car’s power-unit technology configured as a parallel hybrid drive combined a four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric drive which generated a maximum output of 26 kW. The energy stored in a nickel-metal hydride battery was sufficient to power the car over a range of eleven kilometers in purely electric drive mode.
Today, hybrid technology in the BMW 5 Series is more relevant to the modern world than ever before. It is well on the way to series maturity, as demonstrated at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010 when the BMW Concept 5 Series ActiveHybrid was featured and bore impressive testimony to the technology.
Within the space of just one year, the researchers had developed another hybrid concept vehicle and significantly extended the range of the vehicle solely under electric power. The BMW 3 Series with serial hybrid technology was primarily intended for city traffic and was able to travel a distance of 38 kilometers with the internal combustion engine switched off. Two electric motors supplemented the four-cylinder petrol engine. One of them provided the propulsion while the other served as a generator within the system.
Researchers presented a hybrid vehicle based on the first generation of the BMW X5 in 2001, and this demonstrated the progress that had been made in the area of drive and energy-storage technology. The study combined an eight-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor to generate a maximum combined torque of 1000 newton metres. The high-power capacitors known as supercaps were the most important innovation in the first vehicle to be named after the Efficient Dynamics strategy. They were deployed as energy storage devices with particularly high power density.
The BMW Concept X3 EfficientDynamics consistently progressed development of supercaps integrated in the side sills. The technology was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. The specialists at BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH were also able to present new solutions for integrating the internal combustion engine and electric motor. BMW Concept X3 EfficientDynamics integrated the electric motor including performance electronics in a compact active transmission.
Option for the future, already operating today thanks to intensive research: hydrogen as a fuel
Over the long term, the BMW Group is also committed to using hydrogen as an alternative fuel in vehicles. The use of hydrogen produced with assistance from renewable energy sources offers the option of emission-free mobility for the future. The capability of this power-unit technology for everyday use has already been demonstrated with the BMW Hydrogen 7. This car passed through the complete series development process before being manufactured as a limited series. The world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury saloon for use under everyday conditions is powered by a bivalent twelve-cylinder internal combustion engine and has been made available to selected
customers worldwide. They have meanwhile traveled a total of more than four million kilometres driving the BMW Hydrogen 7.
On the way to the BMW Hydrogen 7, BMW Group Research and Technology set up a large number of research projects and concept vehicles, leading to a much better understanding of hydrogen technology and the framework conditions for use in the automobile. A precursor to the BMW Hydrogen 7 was presented in 2000 as the BMW 750hL and used as a shuttle vehicle at the Expo World Exhibition. The following years saw the BMW 750 hL driving more than 170 000 kilometres in a practical test during the “Clean Energy World Tour”. Other pioneering achievements were provided by the BMW H2R hydrogen record vehicle. In September 2004, the model powered by a twelve-cylinder engine set up nine international records for hydrogen-powered vehicles with a piston engine at the BMW test track in Miramas, France. The car achieved a top speed of more than 300 km/h.
Research is currently focusing on the challenges that still have to be mastered for the application of hydrogen. Milestones are the development of a hydrogen-four-cylinder cryogenic test engine and modular hydrogen single-cylinder research engines with combustion chamber geometries similar to petrol and diesel engines that achieved outstanding levels of performance and efficiency for hydrogen engines. The other innovations developed by BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH in the area of hydrogen technology include a variable shape tank with optimized weight made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic for storing hydrogen in the vehicle and a reformer system for generating synthesis gas as a concept for effective emission reduction in the cold-start and catalytic-converter heating phase.
Another field of research involves tracking fuel cell technology with consistent focus on application for generating electricity to power the vehicle’s on-board supply. Use of the fuel cell as an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) has been undergoing development since 1997 at BMW. Consistent further development over the subsequent four generations of technology has resulted in a continuous increase in efficiency and permanently optimized compatibility with everyday use. These advances are being demonstrated with the fuel-cell hybrid vehicle on the occasion of the anniversary.
Connected Drive: networking as the key to more comfort, security and driving pleasure.
The development of electronic systems facilitates smart networking between driver, vehicle and environment, and BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH has played a major role in enhancing comfort, safety and driving pleasure. Many of today’s series vehicles feature driver assistance systems, mobility services, and systems for integrating external communication and entertainment modules that are based on innovations developed by BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH.
Motivated by the objective of opening up new perspectives for networking with the outside world and creating the foundations for the necessary technology, the specialists at BMW Group Forschung und Technik GmbH are working on assistance systems that extend way beyond the scope of the assistance systems integrated in current series vehicles.
Advanced assistance systems created by the research department of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH include the TrackTrainer, which is supported by a melding of highly specific data from digital mapping, GPS and video and allows racing tracks – even the North Loop of the Nürburgring – to be negotiated autonomous in an ideal line. This system is used for training purposes during BMW Driver Training.
The emergency stop assistant developed in the context of the research project “Smart-Senior – Intelligent Services for Senior Citizens” uses the capabilities developed for the TrackTrainer to enhance traffic safety. The system is able to change to autonomous drive mode if an emergency situation caused by a health problem with the driver is identified, in order to carry out a safe emergency braking maneuvering. Apart from reliable localization of the vehicle within the lane, precise execution of the maneuvering primarily involves robust identification of all the vehicles in the immediate environment.
Another research project in the area of automatic driving is the garage parker debuted in 2006. This system permits independent maneuvering of the vehicle. All drive, braking and steering functions are controlled automatically to enable the vehicle to be steered in and out of a garage where space is restricted using remote control by the driver. If required, the system also activates the warning indicators and the headlamps, as well as swinging the wing mirrors in and out. The sensors for stopping the car automatically are naturally also activated if an obstacle is encountered.
More safety and efficiency through targeted communication
A key area of development for our research subsidiary is interchange of information between vehicles and the traffic infrastructure, known as Car-to-X Communication (Car2X). One example is transmission of information about sequence times from traffic light systems. This means that a driver assistance system can either get information about the optimum speed so that cars can hit an individual green sequence of traffic lights and travel without stopping, or issue a warning about the possibility of going through a red light. Strategic transfer of data about the traffic situation, conditions on the carriageway and other factors allow early warnings to be broadcast from one vehicle to other drivers in the immediate environment about accidents, traffic jams or the formation of black ice. It is also possible to calculate the risk of collision based on the transmitted vehicle data so that warnings can be given in advance of potential crashes at junctions. As a manufacturer of cars and motorcycles, the BMW Group is in the unique position of being able to integrate both types of vehicle in the communication scenarios.
BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH also carries out ground-breaking work in the development of revolutionary operating concepts and control systems. One example of this is the concept of an entirely innovative cockpit design presented in a second-generation BMW 3 Series compact, with the Drive Stick as the focal point. Instead of steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal, the concept vehicle has two control levers projecting vertically from the door panel and the center console. These allow the driving direction, acceleration and deceleration to be controlled using drive-by-wire technology. The Drive Stick Car project provides a particularly vivid example of the abilities of the specialists working at BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH to ask questions about basic assumptions, deploy a high level of creativity in seeking out radically different solutions, and harness the potential of innovative technologies. The knowledge collected in this project played a major role in influencing the development of the electromechanical power steering and active steering marketed for BMW series models. It also provides the typical BMW steering feeling under the conditions of power steering support.
From sailing yacht to car: Optimized Head-Up Display technology
Their fundamental research and technology development continually encourages the researchers to look at issues that at first glance appear to be way beyond the scope of the automobile. However, over the long term the knowledge gathered in this way is channeled into projects that lead to an increase in comfort, safety and driving pleasure within the context of BMW ConnectedDrive. The team from the Technology Office located at Palo Alto in the US developed a miniature head-up display integrated in the sunglasses of the crew members in the Oracle BMW Racing Team. This system was designed for use in the ocean race for the America’s Cup and allows information and commands to be transferred speedily and selectively by projecting it onto the lenses of the sunglasses. This project generated additional know-how that was used for the advanced development of the Head-up Display in the latest series vehicles of BMW.
Identification and integration of new technologies as a recipe for success: BMW ConnectedDrive Services with functionality that is unique worldwide.
Defining principles were also identified by the Technology Office in Palo Alto for integrating external communication and entertainment modules in the vehicle. The first interface for integrating the Apple iPod was developed there and this included the option of using the BMW iDrive System to control the audio function. The pioneering work carried out by BMW Research and Technology has secured BMW a unique position for the integration of external communication and entertainment systems in the vehicle. The systems and services integrated within BMW ConnectedDrive guarantee functionality that remains a world first not matched by any other automobile manufacturer worldwide.
Innovative services for future mobility solutions are already being developed today, including the technology required for these concepts. The BMW Group Technology Office Palo Alto joined forces with other technical departments to develop an iPhone application for the BMW Concept ActiveE vehicle. This application delivers vital information directly to the driver’s mobile phone, including data concerning battery charge status and the potential range of the vehicle running on electric power alone.
The prototype of a multifunctional car key was also developed as a means of networking the mobility experience with the driver’s lifestyle. The BMW Key is provided with a security chip that allows the driver to make cashless purchases while also enabling other functions such as memorizing the e-booking for hotel rooms. The driver’s key has integrated credit card functions which offer the possibility of e-booking for bus, train and air travel while in the car and storing the purchased e-tickets on the key. When using hire car or car-sharing systems, the personalized key offers additional potential because it is assigned to the owner of the vehicle rather than to the car itself.
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