BMW and the "H" Word

Carmakers will show off their greenhouse-gas-busting technologies March 8-18 at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show. This is not merely an exercise of engineering prowess. After automakers failed to meet voluntary agreements to cut average emissions from new cars to 140 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, EU environment ministers appear ready to set tougher, mandatory limits.

Historically, diesel has played a key role in Europe’s fuel efficiency strategy, and the Geneva show will feature a number of greener cleaner diesels. But the real news could be BMW’s introduction of mild hybrid technology, even though they are not using the “H” word. Hybrids have been slow to take hold in Europe. In 2006, there were fewer than 16,000 hybrids sold in the U.K. and France combined—compared to 250,000 hybrids sold in the United States.

The effects of new low-carbon rules will be long lasting. The first target is 2020, when greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 30 percent of 1990 levels. Then, carmakers must cut further to 60-80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. "The bulk of the effort will have to come from vehicle motor technology,” said EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

BMW’s 1-series Mild Hybrid

Americans are not familiar with BMW’s diminutive 1-Series, the company’s ultra-popular entry-level subcompact hatchbacks available in Europe since 2004. BMW has created a sportier design for the three- and five-door BMW 1 Series—and is introducing the lineup in Geneva to champion its comprehensive package of fuel saving technologies: variable valve timing, electric power steering, low resistance tires, lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics, gearshift change indicators, and most notably, an auto-stop function with regenerative braking.

What does all this add up to? According to BMW, the four-cylinder 118d achieves 0-60 mph performance in less than eight seconds, while achieving a combined fuel economy of nearly 50 miles per gallon.

BMW’s version of the auto-stop function, a feature found in hybrids in the American market, allows drivers to avoid burning any fuel when the driver applies the brakes or slips the vehicle into neutral. Step on the gas or reengage the clutch, and the engine is immediately available for duty. BMW is treating the auto-stop function, and all the other fuel-saving measures, as improved “conventional” technologies, rather than something worthy of a dedicated green marketing campaign.

Furthermore, BMW will introduce auto-stop in a broad model range, including four- and six-cylinder 1-, 3- and 5-Series models—and in the Mini Cooper. Klaus Borgmann, senior vice president of powertrain development for BMW, said the auto-feature is being evaluated for use in North America.

The new BMW 1-Series goes on sale in Europe this spring 2007. Automobile magazine reports that the 1-series will hit U.S. shores as a 130i coupe in 2009.

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  • Rudolf

    It is a pity the article does not mention the advanced and newly developed petrol engines with direct fuel injection that will be installed in BMW and MINI, they are powerfull yet clean and very economic. Further will the petrol cars also have the mild hybrid options. And by the way, diesel in Europe is for business lease and company cars. Private persons buy petrol cars for tax reasons.

  • Ophir (germany)

    i think the best green strategy for europe would be clean diesel technologies – such as the mercedes Bluetec diesel engine.
    Diesel engines emit less co2, while emitting more nox, which is also a greenhouse gas. These technologies, already on sale in the u.s, emit the same amount of co2 as do conventional diesel engines, with about 80% less nox.

    The rsult: a mercedes e-class with an MPG an co2 emiisions per kilometer similiar to that of a honda civic hybrid.I think these should get more attention.

  • Andreas

    @ Rudolf
    Private persons in Germany, Italy and France buy Diesel cars because of the high MPG and in Germany because of the cheaper price at gas stations. The higher tax only hurts peaople with low milage per year.

  • Rohit

    The future is hybrid cars, PHEVs and EVs and European car companies would be future losers if they don’t bring in hybrid technology as this article points out that with even the best petrol and diesel technologies, companies can’t even achieve voluntary targets. We can’t just forget compare them to Hybrids, and PHEVs.

  • domboy

    “driver applies the brakes or slips the vehicle into neutral”.

    “gearshift change indicators”

    Sounds like their “hybrids” are available with manual transmissions. Yeah!!!!! That’s what I’m talking about…


    The future is the hydrogen car, but not what is known already,im talking about the hydrogen car that takes its energy from a tank of pure water and with the help of electrolisys produces hydrogen that is used for propulsion+some solar panells and regenerative braking. This i think is the way to go.

  • Tyler

    Hyrbrids really seem to be the wave of the future. I am so inthused about them I actually want a career working on them. Yet, the only thing that I have come to be concerned about is, how are the batteries disposed of?…especially the multiple ones underneath the interior?

  • Andreas

    The volunatrily Targets are CO2 Emissions. These Emission are linear to MPG. So the smart Car CDI (common rail direct injection Diesel) has 90g/km CO2 while the Prius has 104g/km CO2. Even the VW Polo Bluemotion Diesel has only 102g/km CO2 and has a comparable size to the Prius. Since MPG drops with added weight (Battery!) hybrid technology drops MPG first, before the benefits finally rise the MPG. So the European Mantra “Diesel is as good as Hybrid” still is valid in certain areas.
    The BMW mild hybrid has no battery. They use so called super caps (super capacitors) to temporally store electrical Energy genereated during braking. This energy is used to restart the ICE. So basically you save the gas wasted normally during ideling at stops. So its no Hybrid, since hybrid means combination of two means of engine power(ICE and electrical for instance). The 1Series does not have a electrical enginge to drive.

  • question minded

    assuming cost could be kept under control, whats wrong with combining electric hybrid tech and diesel tech? best of both worlds?

  • domboy

    Acutally, I think I’d prefer a simpler “mild-hybrid” such as this. Capacitors instead of batteries is a really good idea… they shouldn’t need to be replaced…

  • sdsdsd



    I’d love a diesel version the most, with an automatic, sunroof, and NO IDRIVE

    Manual transmission hybrid would also be nice IMO

    ps I’d also like the MBZ diesel wagons to return to the US

  • Andreas

    acually there’s nothing wrong. Just a few things to look at:
    1. Diesel has a good MPG, adding Hybrid technology is not so rewarding as with petrol. A 30% increase for petrol cars is much easier to sell than a 8.5% climb for diesel ones….
    2. Diesel engines are heavy, hybrid technology is heavy -> you need to redesign the suspension -> high cost, long development time (summer, winter testing, tens of tousands of miles testdrive)
    3. Diesel is noisier in the first place, electrical engines produce also a noise, you need to add a lot of dampening
    4. all these adds cost to the vehicle, and usually we don’t want to pay a lot extra.

  • domboy

    “2. Diesel engines are heavy, hybrid technology is heavy -> “

    I’d say the added weight from hybrid components in this vehicle wouldn’t much, since it’s a mild hybrid and doesn’t have batteries or a really large motor.

  • thomatt12

    It is good to know that BMW is also thinking of ways to help save the environment. Hybrid cars will be a great way to start!

  • Vance Richards

    I get the feeling that this is a great place to learn everything about cars, trucks and vans. It’s a valuable resource and time is one our side.
    I’m trying to slow down, enjoy the drive. Can’t keep the lanes blocked.
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