BMW Hybrids Arrive Late to Game, And Wrong One

BMW announced today that its first hybrid, the ActiveHybrid X6, will make its world premier at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and will arrive in US showrooms in late 2009. BMW will also show the ActiveHybrid 7—which will reach the US in spring 2010—in Frankfurt.

We posted spy photos of the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 last month, when we received a report that the first production vehicles were rolling off the line at BMW’s Spartenburg, SC manufacturing facility. The latest announcement confirms BMW’s progress with its hybrids.

The ActiveHybrid X6 is a full hybrid vehicle that delivers a full dose of oomph—480 horsepower when you combine power from the twin-turbocharged V8 4.4-liter gas engine and two electric motors. Fuel efficiency is improved by about 20 percent when compared to a comparable conventional vehicle, pushing the Hybrid X6’s fuel economy just above the 20-mpg mark. Expect zero-to-60 performance around five-and-a-half seconds, and a price tag of approximately $70,000.

Better Never Than Late?

If BMW is expecting to create green buzz with its first hybrids, it may be disappointed. BMW’s announcement about its 20 mpg SUV hybrid and sedan is occurring just as green car fans are responding to news about mainstream plug-in cars that could achieve the equivalent of 100 mpg or more. The X6 hybrid is expected to run exclusively on electric power up to 37 miles per hour for as much as 1.5 miles—but a new generation of plug-in hybrids will run in all-electric mode for days.

Of course, this is comparing apples to oranges, but similar vehicles using so-called “two-mode” hybrid systems developed in cooperation with General Motors and then DaimlerChrysler, have received a lukewarm response. The GM two-modes are among the lowest sellers in the hybrid market, and Chrysler discontinued its two-mode models soon after introduction. The core idea of a two-mode hybrid is to utilize electric power not only at low speeds, but also for high-speed driving or towing.

Besides, the new BMW hybrids are priced in Fisker Karma territory.

The likely lack of buzz doesn’t erase the technical achievement of BMW engineers, who have reduced the X6 hybrid’s emissions and maximized its efficiency by using turbo charging and high-precision direct injection, electronic power steering, enhanced regenerative braking and stop/start functionality, and careful packaging and use of the hybrid nickel metal hydride battery pack which feeds electric power to the vehicle’s on board network.

The mild BMW ActiveHybrid 7 sedan may impress even less than the BMW hybrid SUV. It will employ an expensive but ultimately counter-intuitive combination of lithium ion batteries, turbocharging, direct injection and a 4.4-liter V8 engine. Combined output will be 455 horsepower. BMW makes the oxymoronic claim that it will be “the fastest-accelerating hybrid sedan in the world.” Acceleration to 60 mph in less than five seconds, and a top speed of 150 mph, will rank it among the fastest sports cars in the world. Very cool, but the hybrid system may still not be enough to raise the BMW ActiveHybrid7 beyond 20 mpg in the city. Exact fuel economy numbers are not yet available.

The two BMW vehicles once again beg the question: Isn’t using less petroleum supposed to be the point of a hybrid? Perhaps it’s a moot point. Both of the BMW hybrids are expected to sell in very low quantities.


  • Anonymous

    HI DEAR. There is only 1 toyota

  • Dj

    Don`t waste your money on this SUV………Sound like BMW has
    GM syndrone.Puttting more useless junk on the markect and it looks bad when a company like BMW can make a decent hybrid.
    Plus you can get a better car from Fisker Karma and all electric
    too!

    Dj

  • lolmanlol

    GM syndrome that’s a good one.

    20mpg! who needs 480hp in the use the fast speed limit in the country is 80mph and that’s only in the day time. So why do car makers keep adding hp’s and increasing the top speed. To me that’s just encouraging speeding and should ban these cars.

    20mgp is nothing and for 70k i can get a the top of the line prius and cut my fuel costs by 60% and BMW does have better branding than fisker karma

  • Wayne1982

    ok the numbers don’t look good but it’s still a good move by BMW.

    Why you may ask.

    Hybrid systems are expensive $10,000 for the lithium ion batteries, $5,000 for the motor, $3,000 for the drive chain this is why the Volt going to cost $40,000 which is expensive for a Chevy Sudan. Also lithium ion batteries production is low at the moment and production capacity needs to be ramped up which takes time So high volume production is going difficult GM have been given $240,000,000 to build a factory to address this problem for the Volt.

    Therefore it make sense to put the technology in your expensive car that are low volume high margin which gives you real world testing and time to develop the technology which will reduce cost, increase performance and economy. Then you can start to move the Technology to Cheaper cars in which are higher volumes.

    This is a good business decision BMW which will help move the technology forward which in the end will be good for everyone.

  • David

    You are right on Wayne, you have to look at the bigger picture, Lexus did the same thing with there 460h, its a good business and the right move for BMW and drivers alike. Think big folks. This stuff takes time to get mass produced.

  • Nick J

    An additional benefit of hybrid power trains is improving vehicle performance / accerleration without having to oversize the engine by combining with the electric motor power. That seems to be BMW’s motive here, I agree with the idea of gaining experience and ramping up your suppliers then moving the tech forward.
    I wonder if they’re using any cylinder de-activation to reduce the 8 cylinder engine consumption in the city ?

  • Alancamp

    These vehicles really are pointless. A Hybrid sedan and SUV that is only 2 mpg from qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers Program.

    I think that BMW should have focused on longer range in all electric mode(5 miles) with at least a 40 mph limit(Ford does 37 mph), combining it with their efficient super quiet diesel engine to further increase the highway mileage.

    In the real world, drivers looking for fuel efficiency don’t care if it reaches 60 in 5, 6 or 7 seconds, and it’s pointless to waste electric power to reach 150 mph, when a driver focused on efficiency won’t pass 80 in most cases.

    It seems BMW is stuck in the GM mode of offering the consumer what they ‘think’ the consumer wants, instead of what the consumer is asking for.

  • Old Man Crowder

    Didn’t Honda try to mate a hybrid system with a more powerful engine in the Accord? And that was way less than 70-grand. See how successful that was?

  • alancamp

    It would have been better if BMW added ‘real’ diesel/hybrid technology to the X5, 1, 3 or 5 Series instead of the screaming ‘midlife crisis with kids…hey look at me!’ impractical X6.

  • Phil U.

    That X6 is one ugly vehicle. What category is it even in? Is it a crossover or a really tall hatchback? I like SUVs. Not ashamed to admit it and I think hybrid SUVs are a great idea since they offer a more dramatic environmental impact assuming the economics can be worked out. But this one is ugly and silly.

    Obviously BMW is shooting for a different target than Prius buyers. But I’d go with the Lexus RX 450h way before this thing.

    But as mentioned by others, hopefully its just a way of paving a road to implementing hybrid technology across their lineup.

  • Slaven

    How about M3 Hydro :)

  • Anonymous

    Wayne1982, Nick J , & David what planet are you guys from? Sorry to be rude but w/ your theory a Ford Focus EV & Nissan Leaf couldn’t be produced under your assumptions. Lets not think that Lexis is its own company its part of the Toyota Motors so to say they all of a sudden had a great idea to develop a hybrid w/o using Toyota’s synergy drive system is silly. Also I don’t buy into BMW not being able to produce a EV or plug-in b/c if you think about it luxury cars are produced at a bit higher of a cost but profit margins are great than basic sedans so yes they could easily have produced a real hybrid if they wanted to w/o taking losses or a big risk. If only BMW was treated like a major auto manufacture they would NOT be able to produce dumb vehicles like this, I sometimes think they slap a hybrid logo on some of their vehicles to fool stupid politicians, ok that’s sarcastic but how can you ignore what this company gets away w/ but criticize Detroit for cranking out monster SUV’s?

  • GR

    There is a pretty big difference between Honda and BMW, Old Man Crowder.

    BMW clients are more likely to be the globe-trotting, business-class seating type, with memberships to the local country clubs. Especially higher-end Beamers like these.

    While most Americans would see this as superficial, many upper income Americans do see a difference between pulling up to the local country club in a Honda Accord Hybrid vs a BMW Hybrid.

    So while it’s nowhere near the 100 mpg BMW Hybrid that we had all hoped for, it’s a start.

  • Phil U.

    Everyone:

    Let’s not forget that Lexus (i.e. Toyota) has their hybrid LS that costs over $100,000 and only gets 21 mpg because of its performance tuned V8. And their hybrid GS that costs over $55,000 and gets 23 mpg. So BMW and to some degree GM are not alone in their thinking that there’s a market for high-end hybrids that aren’t true gas sippers but reduce gas consumption for those who would purchase a high-performance ICE-powered vehicle anyways.

    Most of you probably consider these silly and wasteful as do I since they really only provide style and speed. But you probably think my hybrid SUV is silly and wasteful, too, while I consider it very utilitarian for my family. Ultimately the solution is really to get all vehicles to be more fuel efficient. There will always be those that want a bigger or faster or more stylish car. That’s why they exist. There’s a market for them.

    Except for the BMW X6. It’s too ugly.

  • Anonymous

    Hello BMW

    Some info about sales of Hybrids with V8 engine
    Vehicle – (July-2009 / YTD-2009)
    Tahoe – (954 / 1964)
    Yukon – (117 / 1076)
    Escalade – (167 / 1050)
    LS600h – (28 / 185)
    Silverado – (180 / 650)

    Total – (1446 / 4925)

    You know how many BMW could sell their 70K machine.
    On the other hand
    Prius – (19,173 / 74,924)

    Small Hybrids are the way to go. More of these are coming.
    By 2011, we may have Yaris & Fit Hybrids which may sell even more than Prius if they are priced affordably.

  • alancamp

    Mercedes Benz has the S300 coming that’s their BlueTec Diesel and electric hybrid. It’s supposed to get from 44 to 50 MPG in a big S Class. The ML and GL are coming with the same setup with about the same mileage. So BMW had better focus on what consumers are asking for, instead of token hybrids.

  • Mister E

    What’s oxymoronic about ““the fastest-accelerating hybrid sedan in the world”?

    In case you haven’t noticed, all car drivers aren’t tree huggers. The sooner the industry develops more fuel-efficient environmentally friendly vehicles to meet the needs/desires of the non-tree hugging segments, the better.

    I attended the Plug-In Conference last week. While pulling out of the parking lot I saw 1 Prius and 2 Teslas. While I was tempted to drag-race one of the Teslas in my 911, I wisely opted not to embarrass myself. If only the Tesla had back seats or the Fisker had a drop-top…

    Earlier that day we leased an RX 450h for my wife. Sure it’s not a 50 mpg gas sipper, but she can haul around kids and groceries at the same time and do it at 30 mpg instead of the 12 mpg we were getting in her Mercedes ML 55…and amazingly the RX accelerates almost as quickly!

    Ideally, we’d all be riding bicycles most of the time, which is what I do. However, it simply not practical for all of us all of the time. Our vehicle needs and desires are extremely diverse and the sooner the industry and the pundits realize this, the better.

    I’ve no interest in purchasing a 20 mpg X6, but someone probably does, and if it’s 20% more fuel efficient than the non-hybrid version, that’s better than nothing.

  • Phil U.

    Anonymous:

    Regarding your sales figures, where did you get those? Not that I doubt them, but I’ve tried in the past to gather such info and was unsuccessful. Thanks in advance.

    Also, what’s up with the Tahoe? Why so much interest in July? I asked a dealer last week and he said they were just sitting there.

    Also, anyway you could compare the ones you listed with their non-hybrid versions where one exists? Maybe throw in some small ICE, too? Like the Civic, Fit, Yaris, etc.? I’m just curious.

  • Debt Settlement Program

    complex post. due one unimportant where I bicker with it. I am emailing you in detail.

  • ACAGal

    20 mpg. My 850 turbo Volvo wagon does that as an average, if I keep it in sport….does better in economy.
    A better question is why SUVs? The storage capacity is usually the same from wagon to SUV (of same class and manufacturer), yet the lower profile of a wagon/estate gives slightly better mileage.
    Why do I prefer a wagon to an SUV? I can load racing bikes, plywood, and other odd things that small trucks carry on the top, because the vehicle is low enough that I had load and unload the top. I can drop a back and front passenger seat a throw in surf boards, while still having backseat room for two. The passenger front seat down, and the backseat for seat-belted passenger makes a decent elevation for a sporting friend who failed to miss a pothole and sprained an ankle.
    I do like BMW handling.

  • TwoHybrids

    I’ve owned two Acuras, two BMW 3-series, and now two hybrids, a Prius and a Lexus RX400h. (Love our Prius and our Lexus; they are wonderful in their own ways.) If you enjoy driving, BMWs are superb cars, athletic & responsive and solid & smooth. But other than their diesels and their new twin-turbo six, BMW MPG generally sucks.

    I was hoping BMW would lure me back to their marque with hybrids. If they could retain their handling, fit and finish but increase their fuel efficiency, they’d have had me for sure.

    But like this post says, these two hybrids are the wrong choice. I understand the argument that it’s high-end R&D that will trickle down, but if you’ve owned an RX400h like I have, you know that it’s a done-done-done car, not a rolling experiment in luxury-hybrid-ness. BMW is way behind the curve now, and sadly so, given how much I like their cars.

  • Carson

    Don’t waste your money on this junk.If you are going to by a nice exotic car think about this following list a bugatti veyron,ferrari f430 spyder or a maserati birdcage.Now all these cars seem like alot of money but they are all better than this beemer.a maserati birdcage costs about 3,000,000 a ferrari f430 costs about 240,000 and a bugatti veyron costs about 1,500,000. Now if you dont wan’t that high but still want an exoctic nice car than you should aim for a cotvette or your looking at a porche.Dont buy this car a mazda rx-8 is better than this.And a mazda rx-8 starts only at about 28,000 dollars if you can’t afford that than I don’t know what you can afford.