The next step in BMW's electrification mission, after the i3 city car and the i8 sports car, is this plug-in hybrid SUV concept. Based on the recently refreshed 2014 BMW X5, the Concept X5 eDrive debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show to demonstrate how BMW could electrify more of its vehicles.
At the car's heart is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, likely the 2.0-liter unit found in most of the automaker's current cars, and a 70-hp electric motor/generator. A lithium-ion battery pack concealed beneath the X5's floor stores enough energy for driving 19 miles at up to 75 mph with the gasoline engine turned off. With the turbo engine and motor working in tandem, BMW expects fuel economy equivalent to 62 mpg and a 0-to-62-mph time of just 7.0 seconds. The X5's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is retained.
The BMW Concept X5 eDrive can be charged from a standard wall outlet or a fast charger, and operates in ECO PRO mode by default. This optimizes the use of the gasoline engine and electric motor for maximum fuel efficiency, although drivers can select full-electric mode for quieter, greener operation. A Safe Battery function, by contrast, only uses the turbo-four engine so the battery charge can be reserved for later in the journey.
Despite the addition of the electric motor/generator and battery pack, BMW says the Concept X5 eDrive has almost the same interior space as a standard 2014 BMW X5. The cargo floor is slightly higher to accommodate the coiled charging cable, but the rear seats still fold forward and overall cargo capacity is only slightly reduced.
The navigation system includes public charging stations as points of interest, and the BMW ConnectedDrive smartphone app allows drivers to remotely control when the Concept X5 eDrive charges. The app also can be used to pre-cool or pre-heat the cabin when the car is plugged in. Another feature, called Proactive Driving Assistant, uses information from the navigation system on speed limits, traffic, and road elevation to pick the most energy-efficient driving route.
To identify the concept as a plug-in hybrid, BMW has endowed the X5 eDrive with aerodynamically designed 21-inch lightweight wheels, a special Silverflake metallic paint, blue grille and rear-bumper accents inspired by those on the BMW i3, and the requisite charging port on the front fender, which glows blue when the car is imbibing electrons. A smattering of eDrive badges and a unique lower rear fascia round out the visual changes.
The relative dearth of fanciful show-car touches hints that a production car based on the Concept X5 eDrive might not be too far off. BMW already sells the ActiveHybrid 3, ActiveHybrid 5, and ActiveHybrid 7 sedans and briefly sold the X6 ActiveHybrid SUV until the pricey model's low sales forced BMW to cancel it. Adding a hybrid version of the popular X5 makes sense, as it would help BMW boost the energy efficiency of all its products. However, this X5 concept is the first BMW hybrid to use a four-cylinder engine -- the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car uses a turbocharged three-cylinder engine -- and it's also the first plug-in version, aside from the pricey i8. It could preview a new generation of BMW hybrid systems, or it could mean that this concept will remain in the concept stage for some time.
We'll learn more about BMW's plans for a plug-in hybrid SUV when the Concept X5 eDrive debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show.