Dirk Häcker, Head of Development at BMW M GmbH next to the all-electric prototype of BMW M

"WHAT WE MAKE WILL BE SPECIAL."

BMW M Head of Development Dirk Häcker on electrification and the new BMW M test vehicle.

"What we make will be special."BMW M Head of Development Dirk Häcker on electrification and the new BMW M test vehicle.

Dirk Häcker is Head of Development at BMW M GmbH and is therefore in charge of electrification as well as the development of the new BMW M prototype for innovative drive and chassis control systems. The test vehicle features an all-new four-wheel drive system and integrated driving dynamics control, which together provide an unprecedented level of performance and experience. In this interview, the development engineer discusses the topic of electric mobility at BMW M, explains all the details of the new high-performance concept and tells us what to expect from the world's most powerful letter in the coming years.

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BMW M Magazine: Mr. Häcker when will BMW M go electric?

Dirk Häcker: BMW M is already electric! We launched both the BMW i4 M50 and the BMW iX M60 this year, in the brand's anniversary year. They are both true, all-electric performance cars from BMW M and they will be followed next year by the BMW i7 M70, which ushers in a new level of electrification for performance models.

 

When will you start electrifying the high-performance models?

Again, it's the case that we're not just starting with electrification, but we are already in the process of implementing it. We are talking here about mild and plug-in hybrid systems that are currently being developed for high-performance models and these will be successively brought to market over the next few years. All of this, of course, with a view to also offering a fully electric vehicle in this category at a later date.

 

What philosophy is guiding BMW M while ushering in the age of high-performance electromobility?

We’re driven by that which has always been important to us since the brand's inception and remains so to this day. And that is, every time we introduce a new vehicle or entire generations of new models that open up a new chapter in drive technology – such as the transition from naturally aspirated engines to turbocharged ones or the introduction of the M xDrive all-wheel drive – we always aim to keep the driving dynamics that we are known for. But we also want to go one step further and come up with innovations that some customers or fans may not expect. Our philosophy for such a major technological leap, such as electrification, is undoubtedly this: To take the typical M dynamics, agility and precision that characterize our vehicles and are loved by our customers worldwide and build these into the identity of future electrified models. BMW M knows how to take full advantage of electrification.

 

All-electric sports cars are polarising. What would you say to BMW M3 drivers who associate BMW M with the classic inline six-cylinder engine?

Fear not! But seriously, I'm a big fan of our previous engine technology myself and consider myself part of the community. I drive the current BMW M4 as a company car and have older models from the series in my garage. When we develop an all-electric high-performance model at BMW M, I am always aware, and the entire development team is always aware, of where we are coming from and where we need to go. That's what I stand for, and I can absolutely rely on the entire team. It doesn't matter which vehicle segment or which powertrain we develop, I'm sure we will at least meet the expectations of our longstanding fans, and ideally exceed these expectations yet again. After all, we also want to remain among the biggest fans of our vehicles in the future.

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Dirk Häcker, Head of Development at BMW M GmbH

Enthusiastic about the new drive concept: Dirk Häcker next to the test vehicle.

"Fear not. We also want to remain among the biggest fans of our vehicles in the future."
Dirk Häcker, Head of Development at BMW M GmbH

Recently, BMW M unveiled this new high-performance test vehicle. How did you feel about the first drive?

What an impressive acceleration! What’s more, I was blown away by the outstanding cornering dynamics and very sensitive vehicle control – all qualities that should not be lacking in any M automobile.

 

What excites you most about the new drive concept of the prototype?

The drive concept itself, because we are working with four electric motors, i.e. one motor per wheel! This means that not only does each individual wheel generate propulsion, but also that it can be braked independently of the others. We can thus implement the driver's wishes more precisely, faster, and more independently than ever before – and with the fantastic power of four motors. Something like this is simply not possible with conventional drive technology. To exploit this huge performance advantage, the integrated control algorithm we have developed is a key success factor for the concept, alongside the four engines. We use this driving coordinator as a central point to calculate the ideal power transmission for each individual e-motor and thus for each individual wheel in each driving situation.

Of course, this also means that the battery technology has to be able to cope with instantaneous energy absorption in addition to the rapid energy release under full acceleration – because the recuperation performance of the four motors will be significantly higher than that of current e-vehicles. We are convinced that such a concept will open up a whole new dimension of performance. It may even be the ultimate expansion stage in this area. As an engineer, I don’t know if there is a drive concept that we could pursue that would work better. The prerequisite, of course, is that the energy storage systems and e-motors can do what we envision. So that the vehicle can be presented as a good overall vehicle concept. We are developing this prototype with great enthusiasm.

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BMW M all-electric high-performance prototype

High-performance in test operation: The all-electric BMW M prototype with high-performance drive next to its platform donor, the BMW i4 M50.

BMW has been building electric vehicles in the series production for over a decade. Is that an advantage when developing a BMW M high-performance sports car?

Yes, definitely. We can also draw on the wealth of experience within the Group when making a high-performance vehicle. This is particularly true in the development and construction of e-motors and energy storage. We can therefore better assess what works well already and where there is still potential. Together with our experience in the development of the M xDrive all-wheel drive system, which also requires complex control of the driving parameters, this is a very good prerequisite for the development of our new high-performance concept.

 

How long did the development of the test vehicle take and what challenges has the project presented so far?

We have already been working on an all-electric high-performance vehicle for four to five years. The test vehicle now being presented represents the second generation of vehicles, in a sense, and already has more advanced technology than the first, unpublished series. The development of this prototype, which builds on the first generation, has taken just under three years – from the initial idea to the current iteration. The biggest challenge is clearly the new drive technology. The entire design of the vehicle architecture has to do justice to the complex overall system. That really took a lot of brainpower at certain points. Bottlenecks with suppliers and logistics chains have also presented us with more challenges than usual in the last two years. We are therefore all the happier now that we can use and test the model properly for the first time.

 

Are there any differences compared to the development of previous BMW M models?

Since we are relying on new technology for the entire powertrain, we had to start further upstream during development. Compared to conventional powertrains and control systems with an internal combustion engine, or all-wheel drive systems with limited-slip differentials and other scopes where you can take an evolutionary approach, the new test vehicle with its four independently operating e-machines is indeed a big step. That's why we had to decide early on what was to be included and implemented in the project so as not to face additional challenges during the development phase. All in all, this has worked out really well so far.

 

Is the test vehicle a completely new development or have elements been taken over from other BMW M models?

In our opinion, a genuine high-performance vehicle from BMW M always involves not only the unique powertrain but also a specific adaptation of the axle design and body. That's why the concept car features the typical M wide wheel arches to accommodate the axles of the BMW M3 and M5. We expect this to result not only in a significant improvement in driving dynamics. The high-performance DNA of the vehicle is also immediately recognizable visually. The base vehicle, the BMW i4 M50, had the advantage in that we were able to use the housing of the energy storage unit. However, the cell technology used in it is different.

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BMW M all-electric high-performance prototype

Technology for the highest demands – the test vehicle with M specific chassis, new axle design and widened wheel arches.

Is the car ready for a lap on the racetrack – like current high-performance vehicles from M GmbH?

Yes, the model will perform just as confidently on racetracks and withstand higher loads like our previous M automobiles do. That's also our very personal aspiration in the team, and let's be honest: Without a racetrack capability, the model wouldn't be an authentic BMW M either.

 

So, is the car's racetrack performance comparable to that of conventionally powered M models?

Yes, absolutely! That's the goal.

 

Will we also see this kind of drive concept in motorsport?

It's a question of time, but yes, I think so. Some areas of motorsport are already going down the path of electrification, albeit not fully electric, if you disregard Formula E with its comparatively simple drive train with just one motor. If it proves possible in the future to present more fully electric high-performance vehicles and corresponding racing counterparts are conceivable. It should not be forgotten that large parts of international motorsports are based on road vehicles and corresponding derivatives of these. It is therefore likely to take some time yet.

My personal aspiration would also be for such race cars to be suitable for long-distance racing, if only because of the more flexible areas of application at popular events such as the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring or Le Mans. On the other hand, if you look at races with shorter distances, such as hill climbs, you're already at the point where conventional drives don't stand a chance at all. That's where the all-electric powertrain can take the lead already.

 

When can we expect the first fully electric high-performance model from BMW M? Are orders already being taken?

Although a large team is working on this outstanding concept with a great deal of passion and heart and soul, I'm afraid I have to say, orders are not yet being taken. We will need a little more time before the vehicle is ready for series production. But I promise: What we make will be special. It will be worth the wait.

 

Mr. Häcker, thank you very much for the interview.

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READY FOR THE NEXT CHAPTER?

With the prototype now unveiled, BMW M is starting a new chapter in high-performance drives. The concept testing focuses on a four-wheel drive system comprising four electric motors and an integrated driving dynamics control system, which together provide an unprecedented level of performance and experience. Look forward to all-electric top performance - made by BMW M.

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