Page Overview: Electrification - A thrilling formula
Electrification - A thrilling formula.

Formula E racing series provides the perfect stage for innovative expertise.

Electrification of production vehicles and cars for the racetrack – intensive technology transfer between the two makes Formula E the ideal “tech lab” for the BMW Group’s key future projects. At the same time, BMW i’s pioneering role in electrification is also delivering racing success.

Racing eDrive01 is the name of the highly-efficient drive unit behind the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team’s successes in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. In the official BMW works team’s inaugural season, it has propelled the BMW iFE.18 race car and its drivers, António Félix da Costa (POR) and Alexander Sims (GBR), to outstanding performances and impressive results in the series for fully-electric formula cars. Félix da Costa won the first race in Ad Diriyah (KSA) in December 2018. Sharing in his victory are the BMW i engineers normally in charge of drive trains for series-production models like the BMW i3. Their experience in the field of electrification has proved a decisive advantage on the racetrack.

At the start of the development process for the electric Formula E drive train, the big question was: Should we build up our own BMW Motorsport capacity or take advantage of BMW i’s years of experience in this field? It didn’t take us long to answer that. It naturally made sense to leverage the extensive knowledge of our series-production colleagues.

Jens Marquardt

BMW Motorsport Director

Link between serial and racing development.

What followed is a classic example of close cooperation between series and race-car development. Under the umbrella of BMW i Motorsport, a completely new development cycle was established, aimed at using capacity as efficiently as possible and generating synergies wherever possible, with clearly assigned responsibilities. Series-production specialists take care of the hardware for the electric engine and the inverter – i.e. the entire high-voltage range, including the software that controls the electric motor with an inverter and the materials used for the rotor or stator, for instance.

The BMW Motorsport engineers, on the other hand, are focusing mainly on the low-voltage control range. They devised battery regeneration strategies, handled the packing of the entire rear-axle structure and developed the cooling concept. “All the things each division does best were dovetailed in a completely transparent way. The technology transfer between our BMW Motorsport engineers and BMW i colleagues worked very well,” explains Marquardt.

Ingenieur  bei der Arbeit

Formula E symbolises BMW Group’s consistent focus on the future.

In this way, the BMW Group is creating a cycle of knowhow and experience in the future-oriented field of electrification that benefits everyone. Under the extreme conditions of the Formula E racetrack – also in direct competition with many other automobile manufacturers – BMW i Motorsport is gaining insights it can incorporate into development. 

"Every BMW i customer,” says Marquardt, “will benefit from our joint progress in motor racing.” A good example of this is the control software in the high-voltage range, which activates the electric motor after the inverter, and can be used in both the BMW iFE.18 and the BMW i3.

Jens Marquardt

BMW Motorsport Direktor

From a sporting perspective, this unique combination has demonstrated its competitiveness in Formula E from the very first race. Off the track, the BMW Group has also proved its innovative expertise in key future areas for the automotive industry as this racing series continues to grow. Electrification is the basis, of course, but other focus topics, such as Automated Driving, Connectivity and Services, in combination with ground-breaking design – like the BMW i8 Roadster Safety Car – are a focal point at every race. In this way, Formula E is becoming a symbol of the consistent future orientation of BMW i, BMW Motorsport and the BMW Group in general.

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From production vehicle to Power BEV: fully-electric with maximum performance.

The BMW Group’s Power BEV test car pushes the limits of what is technically feasible: It comes with three fifth-generation electric drive units and delivers a maximum system performance of more than 530 kW/720 hp. With this kind of power, it can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in well under three seconds.

However, the development goal for this test vehicle was not just impressive longitudinal, but also transversal, dynamics. Like any BMW, it was designed for dynamic cornering fun as well straight-line speed. Chassis and drive train development were coordinated to enable maximum performance. Crucial for vehicle driving dynamics is the fact that the two electric motors can be controlled separately at the rear axle. This enables e-torque vectoring that can convert maximum drive power into propulsion even during highly dynamic driving manoeuvres. The result is more effective and sensitive than with a limited-slip differential, because actively targeted interventions are possible in any driving situation, while a limited-slip differential always responds to a speed difference at the drive wheels. 

BMW Power BEV

BMW 5 Series production vehicle as basis for test vehicle.

The powertrain consists of three fifth-generation drive units, each containing an electric engine with corresponding power electronics and output in a shared housing. One of these units is mounted on the front axle and two on the rear to create a twin drive unit. In addition to its performance, what is also remarkable about this generation is that no rare earths are needed. An electric engine like this will go into series production for the first time in 2020 in the BMW iX3 – however, with just one drive unit per vehicle.

Depiction of a powertrain

A current series-produced BMW 5 Series serves as the basis for the Power BEV test vehicle. Integrating such a drive system into a production vehicle is a major engineering achievement. The entire passenger compartment was completely preserved with no limitations. This clearly makes it easier to compare the drive concept with others and allows engineers to better analyse the possibilities offered by two separately controllable electric motors on the rear axle with e-torque vectoring. This allows them to select the appropriate technology for future production-vehicle projects. In this way, it will also be possible in the future to provide customers with the appropriate technology in each vehicle concept.