BMW partners to develop hybrids: Automaker to pool expertise with DaimlerChrysler and GM

BMW partners to develop hybrids: Automaker to pool expertise with DaimlerChrysler and GM

Original at Greenville News

Posted Thursday, September 8, 2005 - 6:00 am

By Jenny Munro
BUSINESS WRITER
[email protected]
The BMW Group announced it is partnering with DaimlerChrysler AG and General Motors Corp. to jointly develop hybrid drive systems for automobiles.

A memorandum of understanding was signed Wednesday to govern the "alliance of equals" that will allow the three companies to pool their expertise and accelerate the development of the systems.

The three automakers said they share a goal of reducing fuel consumption while not compromising vehicle capability. The base two-mode hybrid system will be common, but each company will decide how to integrate the system in its own design, engineering and manufacturing demands.

"The creation of a shared technology platform for hybrid drives will allow us to more quickly integrate the best technologies on the market and will, therefore, exploit and strengthen the innovative potential of all participating companies," said Burkhard Goschel, BMW's board of management member responsible for development and procurement.

Company officials also said they would be able to make hybrids less expensive. Hybrid vehicles now cost around $4,000 to $9,000 more than a traditional vehicle.

Hybrids represented less than 1 percent of U.S. vehicle sales last year but doubled from the year before to 83,153 units, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Michigan company that collects and interprets automotive data.

Tom Stephens, group vice president at GM Powertrain, said discussions with potential additional partners to the development project are ongoing.

A joint development center will be located in Troy, Mich. The GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW Hybrid Development Center will develop the overall system and the individual components, including electric motors, high-performance electronics, wiring, safety systems, energy management and hybrid system control units. It also will be responsible for system integration and project management.

The two-mode system being developed allows the vehicle to be powered by two electric motors or the combustion engine in city stop-and-go traffic. Also, the two systems can be used simultaneously. When driving fast, the two-mode system switches to a different system but uses the hybrid system's full power when climbing a hill, passing other cars or hauling a trailer.

GM and DaimlerChrysler signed the initial agreement last month. BMW, based in Munich, will sign a definitive agreement later this year.

Prior to joining the partnership, BMW had spent its time researching and developing the use of hydrogen as a fuel source in internal combustion engines.

Helmut Panke, BMW chairman, recently said that BMW plans to introduce a hydrogen-fuel 7 Series within the current generation of the automobile, according to AutoWired, an industry electronic magazine.

A BMW vehicle has a life cycle of about seven years. The 7 Series debuted in 2003 and officials have said they expect to have a hydrogen vehicle ready for sale by 2010. BMW now has a fleet of 7 Series sedans that have both hydrogen and gasoline engines because of the impossibility of finding hydrogen stations.

Panke predicted that every carmaker would have a hybrid vehicle with the next five to eight years, although he said it would probably take 15 years for them to become popular.

He also told AutoWired that hydrogen-fueled vehicles could make up 10 percent to 14 percent of the auto market by 2020. Major hurdles to overcome include storage technology for the fuel and the fuel station infrastructure.

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